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Emergency serives heads meet with Communications Director

WALSENBURG- Don Mercier, the new emergency dispatch communications director, formally introduced himself to the heads of the County’s emergency services on Thursday afternoon.

    Mercier had called for the special meeting to clear up some misconceptions  as to how Emergency Dispatch was dealing with billing questions. Dispatch was switched over to County management from Walsenburg management in February.

    Mercier was hired to fill the new position of Communications Director, and also to deal with the confusion of a new billing system for dispatch calls.

    He explained that in November it was decided to create the new system, and that all the differing agencies (County Ambulance, Walsenburg police and fire departments, the Sheriff’s department, La Veta Marshall and EMS) signed an InterGovernmental Agreement (IGA) agreed to pay $25 per page-out for their specific agency, which the dispatch center would keep track of.  This amount was agreed to as a starting point for a year, to see if it covered the costs of the new dispatch center or not.

    Rumors soon swirled that every time an agency’s name was mentioned on the radio, they would take another $25 hit, or if an incident required multiple page-outs, they would be billed each time.

    Mercier assured the gathered Chiefs that was not the case.  He acknowleged that the fire and ambulance departments frequently had several pages per incident, and they would only be billed for the initial call.  “We’re not out to gouge anybody,” he said.

    With almost two months of operation under their belts, Mercier said he can already see that the proposed new Computer Assisted Dispatch (CAD) system may not be the best solution for their needs.  Right now the dispatchers are using a spreadsheet system to track who was paged, how often and when.  This is a “big step” from the handwritten notes that dispatchers kept in the past.  As an incident is paged out and tracked, dispatchers can keep more accurite tabs on who is responding and what equipment is being used.

    “Right now, this seems to be working pretty well,” he said.

    Finally, Mercier wanted to address the rank and file’s concerns about incurring a charge for their department by requesting more page-outs:

    “They should not be concerned about how it will cost their department- they should be concerned about saving lives and property.”