Letters to the Editor: Sept. 3, 2020 – Rio Blanco Herald Times

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Dear Editor:

I am appalled that the county commissioners would even consider changing the vital service of our dispatchers in Meeker. Seconds count when someone is in a life threatening situation. I well remember the role the quick response of the dispatcher played when my husband’s heart stopped beating at home. Not only did she dispatch help, she talked me through the life saving steps of performing CPR. I had been trained in this, but at this critical moment I needed her to help me remember and to talk me through it.

Cutting in this area would seem to me to be a last resort not a first step in balancing the county’s budget. What about all the taxpayer dollars that went into the justice center to have a state of the art dispatch center?

I am also concerned about the effect this would have on sheriff department employees’ and their families. Where is your compassion for them in these uncertain times?

Furthermore, this just feels like a continuation of the county commissioners’ decisions without going through the proper channels of discussion and considering what is best for our community. I realize they have a budget deficit, but why not openly communicate with the various departments and together come up with cost cutting measures. Maybe they could even solicit ideas and suggestions from their electorate.

Let’s work together to meet our challenges and address our problems.

Peggy Strate

What is a human life worth?

Dear Editor:

Saving lives and mitigating property damage requires a professional and effective public safety 911 dispatch center administered by the RBC Sheriff’s Office–Not replaced by contracting out to a CSP regional communications center in Craig. 

The citizens, voters and taxpayers of Rio Blanco County stated their overwhelming support for retaining the current and outstanding Emergency 9-1-1 Public Safety Communications Center at the Sheriff’s Office in Meeker at a standing-room-only meeting on August 31. Reacting to a massive budget-cutting proposal by RBC Commissioners to close the state-of-the-art new communications center and transfer all such services to the Colorado State Patrol Regional Communications Center in Craig was met with profound opposition by citizens who attended. Many expressed deeply-felt gratitude and shared personal experiences with lifesaving responses to emergency situations made possible by the professional and caring dispatchers over many years. 

Reportedly, the Commissioners determined that they could cut the annual dispatch budget of $527,632 to $70,000 thus saving $457,600. [see link:] https://rbc.us/DocumentCenter/View/2426/2021-Budget-Discussion-8_31_20 

However, this begs the question: Would the CSP Center be able to provide equivalent or superior dispatch/911 services to that of the current RBC Center? 

No evidence has been shown that the Craig CSP communications center can match or exceed the level of professional and competent services now provided by the RBC Sheriff’s Communications Center. 

As a now-retired public safety communications/911 center director at the University of Colorado at Boulder Department of Public Safety for 34 years, and having gone through such consolidation proposals and experiences, it is my considered opinion that this proposal would greatly degrade and reduce the quality and reliability of extraordinary services now provided by dedicated professional dispatchers of the RBC Sheriff’s Office Communications Center. 

Boulder County public safety agencies created the first consolidated communications center in the nation known as the Boulder Regional Communications Center in the late 1970’s combining the Sheriff’s Office and Boulder Police Department which also handled all fire/rescue and Emergency Medical Services agencies communications. A communications center director administered all such services and reported to a board composed of the Sheriff, police chief, fire/rescue agencies, et al.

However, over a period of years it was discovered that the administration of the center by a communications director was not a feasible or functional model as it removed direct control and coordination from the Sheriff and Police Chief and fire/rescue agencies, resulting in policy and procedure conflicts and coordination issues. Consequently in the late 1990’s The Sheriff’s Office and Boulder Police separated from the regional center and established their own centers which directly reported to the Sheriff who also coordinates Fire/Rescue in the County, and the Boulder Police Chief and Fire Chief. 

The key point of this experience is that [as was so aptly pointed out in the August 31 meeting by RBC dispatchers and officers, fire rescue and EMS] local dispatching services with dispatchers who know the first responders and work with them on a daily basis, have a much better professional working relationship in a team effort, and know the geography, unusual locations, special information and familiarity with the citizens they serve in the area they serve and live in.

Conversely, dispatchers in a CSP regional center in Craig [ as one of six in Colorado] would have little or no specialized and detailed knowledge of geography, and all of the valuable information that is known by local RBC dispatchers and shared with the public safety professionals that they work with. It is important to realize that the CSP Regional Center supports the entire Northwestern Colorado geographic area from the Continental Divide to the Utah and Wyoming Borders for multiple federal , state, county and local jurisdictions. It is a serious and virtually unattainable challenge for dispatchers to be as thoroughly familiar with such a vast area and numerous jurisdictions and functions.

Many formerly consolidated centers throughout the nation are finding similar issues and reverting back to local communications centers with much more effective optimal outcomes and productivity. 

An old adage suggests “you get what you pay for… there are no free lunches.” Operating a professional and competently staffed public safety 911 communications center requires a certain level of staffing on a 24/7/365 basis.

Salaried professional dispatch personnel deserve a living wage along with insurance and retirement benefits just as any professional public safety career employee does. Dispatchers are not paid as much as law enforcement officers and work long 12 hour shifts under sometimes very stressful incidents with sad outcomes and certainly experience post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] as do first responders. 

Closing the RBC Communications Center would lay off all of the current dispatcher staff and end their dedicated careers of helping citizens and first responders which would be a tragic loss for our County. 

It is essential for the Commissioners to find a better way to keep funding the RBC Sheriff’s communications center, even at the expense of other less vital programs and infrastructure funding that are not urgently necessary life safety priorities. 

There are other ways to save money and deal with shrinking budgets which can be accomplished by curtailing infrastructure and capital construction projects which do not affect life safety services. The Commissioners are urged to consider other options such as creating a special emergency communications services special district similar to fire protection districts, health care districts and finding funding resources through sales tax, subscription services, 9-1-1 surcharges and most of all, as many citizens requested, transparently involve the members of the community in such efforts to sustain the costs of operating this highly valuable and irreplaceable service within the Sheriff’s Office. 

Local Communications Center dispatchers are indispensable.

The often unsung heroes of public safety are the dispatchers who receive 9-1-1 emergency calls for help, and send first responders. Not only do they send first responders but are trained in Emergency Medical Dispatch [EMD] to give pre-arrival instructions such as CPR and first aid to 9-1-1 callers on how to help the victim before EMS arrives. These dedicated professionals are concurrently making critical decisions on behalf of citizens and first responders based on familiarity and protocols for their local first responder organizations. Moreover dispatchers share training with local first responders for optimal Incident command system response coordination. 

Reliable and professional emergency 9-1-1 services are only possible when highly competent and well-trained dispatchers in a local emergency communications center that work well with law enforcement officers, fire/rescue, EMT’s and emergency management. 

As the old adage suggests, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and “don’t put all your eggs in one basket…” The consequences of such inappropriate choices can be loss of life and property, and less than optimal public safety services. 

Respectfully submitted,
Robert Amick, ENP
4th generation Rio Blanco County Native

Retired police officer and Communications/9-1-1 Center Director, Department of Public Safety University of Colorado at Boulder for 34 years; Emergency Number Professional [ENP], National Emergency Number 9-1-1 Association [NENA9-1-1] Member; Associated Public Safety Communications Officials, International [APCO] member

Starbuck family thanks

Dear Editor:

The Ethel Starbuck family would like to thank all who made Ethel’s 103rd birthday a memorable event. Jean Gianinetti spearheaded an incredible drive-by parade with great support from the entire Walbridge Wing staff. Wing residents enhanced the celebration. The Rio Blanco Herald Times provided great publicity, and Meeker citizens responded with open hearts and ingenuity. There were balloons and decorations; honking horns and cheers of good wishes; horses for Ethel to greet, festive music from keyboard, and guitar; P.E.O.’s singing “Happy Birthday,” fire trucks and sirens, local police and sheriff patrol cars, spectacular flowers and showers of cards with treasured memories. So many friends contributed in so many special ways. Cards continue to arrive from many states with notes that mean so much to Ethel. She is so touched and honored. In these times we thought a celebration would be impossible. The impossible became possible with your love and caring. We will forever be grateful.

Paula Armstrong
The Ethel Starbuck Family

Thanks from Walbridge Wing

Dear Editor:

The staff at the Walbridge Wing would like to thank the community of Meeker for coming out to support Ethel Starbuck and wish her a happy 103rd birthday. So thank you to Lois Williams, Dianne Mobley from the Ladies Riding Club, Anna  and Jayna Goodwin, Mary Thompson (with Peppy and Penny), and Range Call Princess Attendant,  Kalee Ivy. Mrs. Starbuck was over the moon with the horses, still talking about it.  Also a special thank you to all of her friends, past students, church family, and P.E.O. who came out to say “happy birthday.” Nice singing, by the way. Thank you so much to Dave Main, and Mary Kay Krueger for the wonderful music. A great big thanks to our wonderful first responders… Thanks for the lights and noise. It was awesome. And thanks to the Herald Times for all their support.

Walbridge Wing Staff

What goes around comes around

Dear Editor:

This note is to all people that are buying items from single people. The buyer is using $100 bills here in Meeker that are fake. Hope they are happy with their item. As the saying goes, “what goes around comes around.” In the end they paid the price.

Mary Younker

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