The Lompoc City Council voted 5-0 in favor of exploring the possibility of contracting its emergency dispatch services to a neighboring agency.
“We currently have a dispatch center that is supposed to be staffed with eight dispatchers and one supervisor,” said Lompoc Police Dept. Sgt. Kevin Martin.
Martin said the department only has three full-time dispatchers, which handle calls for both police and fire.
“We’re down five dispatchers, so we’re relying on two police officers, who should be out on the street doing their job, to fill in as dispatch and we also use a jailer to staff at times,” Martin said.
According to Martin, recruiting and retaining dispatchers has proven to be very difficult over the last several years.
“We’ve put approximately 12 to 13 people into training and none of those have been successful in the process,” said Martin.
With fewer people to staff the dispatch center, it has left unfilled holes throughout the day.
“We have modified the shifts,” Martin said. “We are supposed to have two dispatchers 24 hours a day. We only have two dispatchers 12 hours a day, so from noon to midnight, we are staffed with two dispatchers during the peak hours, but after midnight, we drop to one until 12 the next day.”
Lompoc Fire Chief Gerald Kuras said the reduced staff has created challenges.
“When having only one dispatcher, when there are multiple calls, being a PD call or a fire call, one dispatcher can’t handle both at the same time,” Kuras said. “There’s been times when we’ve had to switch to a county frequency in order to get a response from our firefighter personnel through dispatch if we needed additional equipment or helicopter or anything like that.”
As a potential solution, the city could outsource its dispatch services.
“They’re (police and fire leaders) going to go to the council,” Martin said. “They’re going to request basically council approval to reach out to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Maria Police Department to see what it would cost if they picked up dispatching for the City of Lompoc.”
Last month, Guadalupe announced it was moving its dispatch services from the Sheriff’s Office to Santa Maria’s new state-of-the-art center.
At the time of approval, it was expected Santa Maria would begin dispatch for Guadalupe late this year.
Both facilities are equipped to handle multiple agencies.
“It’s a fact-finding mission only,” said Martin, describing tonight’s city council meeting. “No decisions have been made. We need council approval to move to this level and depending on what the council decides, we’ll do the research at that point.”