Cass County proposal to consolidate five 911 dispatch centers into one met with opposition

RAYMORE, Mo. -- Controversy is brewing in Cass County over a pending decision that would consolidate the county’s 911 dispatch centers.

Emergency calls in the county are filtered through five dispatch locations in Belton, Raymore, Pleasant Hill, Harrisonville as well as the Cass County Sheriff’s Office. However, the county’s Emergency Services Board is considering moving all five centers to one location.

“Basically, it would disband the current PSAPs and build a consolidated dispatch center where everyone in the entire county would be dispatched from one location, both police and fire,” Raymore Police Chief Jan Zimmerman explained.

Belton Fire Chief Norman Larkey, who also serves on the ESB, made a motion calling for the change during a board meeting on Nov. 21.

Zimmerman, city managers for Raymore and Belton, and the Cass County Sheriff’s Office oppose the consolidation. They cite a possible loss of jobs, reduced public safety and additional costs to taxpayers.

“If the ESB members continue to force this issue onto our residents, the City of Raymore is fully prepared to pursue any and all legal remedies at our disposal to ensure the continued operation of our dispatch center, which is a cost-effective and critical service that keeps our residents safe,” Raymore City Manager Jim Feuerborn said in a letter to the board.

Belton’s city manager, Alexa Barton, released a similar statement saying the city “unequivocally” agreed with Raymore.

Both pointed to two recent studies — one conducted by the state and another commissioned by the board — that show the current dispatch centers in the county are performing well. The feasibility study conducted for the board also estimates a new building for a centralized center would cost at least $4 million.

Zimmerman said the proposal could also affect a 911 sales tax approved by voters in 2012. The half-cent tax was used to upgrade the county’s radio system and is supposed to be reduced to an eight of a cent tax in fall 2019.

“They voted on it rolling back based on the system that we bought and now it would continue passed October 2019 without them ever getting to vote on it again,” Zimmerman explained. “If the motion passes, the tax will not rollback and taxpayers will continue to pay the higher tax.”

FOX4 talked with several residents who were surprised to learn of the proposal.

“I haven’t heard anything about it,” Jan Yardley said. “This is total news to me, so I do find it interesting.”

“It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money on changing something if it’s working,” Piper Showen added.

Zimmerman said she and other law enforcement leaders would have liked to have been included in the process. She believes the systems that are place right now are just fine.

“I feel like we provide this tremendous service and so if it’s not broken, why do we need to fix it,” she asked.

FOX4 reached out to Cass County Emergency Services Board to find out the motivation behind the proposal and were referred to the board member who made the motion. FOX4 has not received a response as of Monday evening.

The ESB is scheduled to meet to discuss the issue on Wednesday, December 19 at the Cass County Justice Center at 8:00 am.

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