FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - The Arizona Department of Public Safety is closing its dispatch center that covers the northern part of the state, leaving many employees concerned about response times and their own livelihood.
DPS Director Frank Milstead made the decision in late January to shutter the Flagstaff-based Northern Communication Center, the Arizona Daily Sun reported Friday.
Department spokesman Bart Graves said the dispatch center couldn’t maintain adequate staffing, stemming from recruitment challenges that “placed a great burden on available staff.” Of the 29 allocated positions, only 15 are filled, he said.
For now, all northern Arizona dispatchers are being moved to the day shift. Another dispatch center in Phoenix will handle the graveyard shift.
DPS has offered to transfer staff in northern Arizona to Phoenix or elsewhere within the agency, Graves said. “We do not anticipate forcing any dispatcher to leave the agency,” he said.
The agency didn’t have a solid timeframe for the final closure.
The Northern Communications Center is the agency’s only dispatch center north of Phoenix and one of just three in the state. It takes calls from Mohave, Coconino, Yavapai, Navajo, Apache and Gila counties, as well as large portions of three American Indian reservations.
Dispatchers said they fear the closure could endanger troopers, public response time and the department’s ability to help other agencies.
They blamed recruitment challenges on the length of time it took to fill open positions, citing wait times of more than the suggested three to five months to be hired before training.
Scott Church, a dispatch supervisor, said the closure came as a surprise and he thinks it can be avoided. Church said he felt more could be done to recruit new employees, including at college and high school job fairs.
“It’s a good job, a good-paying job. It’s got benefits,” he said. “There’s no reason not to take it.”
Information from: Arizona Daily Sun, http://www.azdailysun.com/
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