Progress made on regional dispatch center

By Derek Jordan, Sierra Vista Herald/Bisbee Daily Review

SIERRA VISTA — Cochise County is close to a deal that would see it purchase a building in Sierra Vista to serve as a joint regional communications facility, from where both Sierra Vista police and fire and sheriff’s deputies would be dispatched.

Discussions on obtaining the building for the communications center, located on Sierra Vista’s east side, continued last week during an executive session of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors. The content of those discussions are not made public, but Sheriff Mark Dannels did say that progress has been made.

“We have an agreement in place. As long as the inspections and all of that come through, we will have the new facility,�? Dannels said.

Much of the cost of purchasing the facility will be paid for by the $1 million donation made to the sheriff’s office last year by Governor Doug Ducey’s office for the purpose of constructing a regional communications center.

The Fry Fire District is already being dispatched out by Sierra Vista Police Department staff, and would continue to be once the transition to the new joint facility is made. Meanwhile, as part of the donation from the governor’s office, local Department of Public Safety officers would also be dispatched out by the center.

“That was part of the discussion the governor and I had, that we will dispatch for DPS officers in this county too,�? Dannels said.

Eventually, the sheriff hopes that the dispatching and communications for all local law enforcement agencies will be handled through the facility, allowing for closer working relationships between them and resulting in better public service.

“It’s a good thing,�? he said.

Cochise County Administrator Jim Vlahovich said about the purchase of a facility that, “We’re in some contract negotiations, but it is moving forward.�?

The city of Sierra Vista continue to be an “active partner�? in the effort, said Mary Jacobs, assistant city manager.

“This was one of the objectives in the city council’s first strategic leadership plan back in 2007, to pursue a joint regional communications facility,�? Jacobs said.

City staff last met about the process earlier this month.

“As a result of that meeting, we also talked about issues that need to be resolved, and we have a consensus at a staff level as to the steps that will need to be taken, in terms of getting authorization and agreement between the two elected bodies and the sheriff’s office,�? she said.

Those steps include getting both city and county elected leaders to agree on a memorandum of understanding as to how the communications center would operate. A draft of the document has been sent to the county administration for review.

The next step will be to hold a joint work session with the city council and county board of supervisors to update them on progress made and allow them to review and make suggestions for the memorandum. City and county officials will then begin developing a more formal intergovernmental agreement and operational agreement for the communication center’s daily operations.

“There are a lot of balls in the air, but it’s a really exciting time,�? Jacobs said.

Things are still on track to have the facility up and running by the end of the year. To that end, the city is holding off on capital improvements to the Sierra Vista Police Department and plans to put those funds—approximately $250,000—toward the new communications center, said Police Chief Adam Thrasher.

“Right now, we’re working closely with the county on logistical issues, servers, that kind of thing,�? Thrasher said. There is also an effort underway to hire additional dispatchers, a need that will continue to exist even when both the city and sheriff’s office combine their separate dispatch staff.