Lewistown presents rosy picture of centralized dispatching at meeting

Two representatives from Lewistown, Kevin Myhre, the city’s manager, and Dorothy Gremaux, Lewistown dispatch supervisor, spoke in glowing terms about their move towards centralizing their dispatch center when they met with Carbon County Commissioners and various police and emergency personnel last week. The meeting took place at the Laurel Fire Department. Both Laurel and Red Lodge have expressed an interest in following on the same lines as Lewistown.
The Central Montana 911 Center operated by the City of Lewistown dispatches for three counties, Fergus County, Petroleum County and Judith Basin County, and covers a radius of 10,395 miles incorporating 40 different emergency service zones.
Both Myhre, also the Chairman of the State 911 council, and Gremaux told the room that all three counties came to them and turned their 911 funding over to Lewistown and that the relationships remain “good.”
Gremaux outlined the various responsibilities the 911 Center has for each county starting with Petroleum which have no dispatch capabilities:
•It takes and processes all calls and generates a call for service. It covers all 911 calls, including all paging for law, EMS and fire. It edits and maintains the 911 database including collection. All radio traffic including traffic stops and/or emergencies. All CJIN (Criminal Justice Information Network) work, law enforcement, EMS and fire paging. Paging is done on alphanumeric pagers throughout the county.
For Fergus:
•All wireless 911 calls along with the majority of the wire line calls are answered through Central Montana 911. All paging is done on alphanumeric pagers for law enforcement, EMS and fire. All CJIN duties when needed. When a call comes in that belongs to Fergus County the center will take the information, dispatch if necessary then “relay” the call to the county dispatch for them to handle. The 911 center is also responsible for the editing and maintaining the 911 database including collection.
For Judith Basin:
•Judith Basin handles their own administrative dispatch Monday through Friday excluding holidays. Central Montana 911 center handles all 911 calls. After 5 p.m., weekends and holidays, the 911 center takes over all dispatch duties for the county. The 911 center also edits and maintains the 911 database including collection. The Central Montana 911 Center is required to complete CJIN functions when Judith Basin is transferred to the center. All paging in this county is done on the old voice pagers only through the Central Montana 911 Center.

Carbon County Commissioner Doug Tucker asked if this didn’t complicate things during an emergency, to which Gremaux replied “not at all.”
Likewise the issue about Laurel dispatchers not knowing areas of Carbon County or vice versa were similarly waylaid with the advance in technology that allows dispatchers and responders to see the address and the area they need on screen.
“We have a routing system and digital maps, and can load it into our software, and place a point and it will rout those responders to it, and you can fax it or email the information,” said Gremaux.
Under the State of Montana, 75 cents from every dollar collected from 911 calls goes to the 911 jurisdictions and part of the requirements is to have a 911 board to oversee spending in line of state requirements. Every town that is incorporated will have 911 funds and a city manager will get a list each quarter from the Public Safety office explaining what 911 funds that town receives, and these funds will go into the running of the 911 Center. Most of the funding said Myhre goes towards staffing, operation, maintenance, upkeep and replacement of equipment.
Lewistown receives $307,825 from the three counties 911 fees. Operating costs are $295,820. The City of Lewistown transfers $175,000 from its general fund to help in salaries.
911 funds gathered from county telephones are carried out by the state and they are distributed per capital in an 84-16 split, 84 percent spread out over counties, and the remaining spread over counties with one percent of population.
When it came to capturing fees from cell phones, Myhre talked about HB 509 presently going through the Senate, which will help gather some money especially from prepaid cell phones which presently do not contribute to 911 funding.
“All the money goes to the seller,” said Myhre.
HB 509 will put the responsibility on the seller.
“Wal-Mart will collect a dollar and remit to the state of Montana but for the smaller concerns that is tougher, but HB 509 will allow them to take 5 percent of the fee off the top and keep it. It’ll will be consistent and fair because people will be calling 911 from those phones,” said Myhre.
Lewistown operates with four full time dispatchers working 40 hours, primarily days and nights, and four part-time dispatchers working 30-40 hours a week, primarily fills and mids. Gremaux covers shifts.
“It’s flexible and everyone still has benefits and it’s cut down on over time,” she said.

The starting base salary for a supervisor is $16.80; a dispatch ll $15,92; a full time dispatcher $15.05; and a part-time dispatcher $14.64.
Both Myhre and Gremaux said the whole experience had been a “smooth transition” with “no problems over jobs.”
Carbon County Commissioner John Prinkki felt the Lewistown system “works well” while Myhre called the ”leap of faith” to do this a “Godsend.”
“It’s one system, you dial 911 and know the call is through,” he said.
Gremaux added that open communication between the entities “helps.”
John Grewell, Carbon County Commissioners, said he was as “enthusiastic as ever”, even though he acknowledged, “there are a lot of issues. What control is Carbon County Sheriff’s office willing to give up? It seems to be still an issue with Fergus County. What are our equipment needs?”
In the end he felt “it will work, and give us a better resource and I don’t think it will cost us any more money.”
The first working group to discuss plans to centralize is set to meet May 1 at 9 a.m. at the Laurel Fire Department.