MADISON (WKOW)-- It's a tale of two letters. One, sent by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin publicly calling out the Dane County 911 dispatch center and county executive Joe Parisi. The other letter, from Parisi, calling out the mayor for publicly shaming the dispatch center and its workers.
"We do think some changes need to be made in terms of training and staffing in the center," Soglin says.
The disagreement comes after the recent announcement that at least 32 dispatch errors have come out of the center since April of 2013. That was when the center received a $3.7 million software upgrade to help dispatchers handle 911 calls.
"From where I sit, I'm wondering, can we just do this in a constructive way and sit down and talk about it rather than have press conferences and make accusations?" Parisi asks.
Besides the 32 dispatch mistakes that were announced earlier this week, Soglin along with Madison police and fire officials, also believe dispatch calls are taking longer than they should. Standards that are set by the National Fire Protection Association say calls should be processed in less than one minute at least 80% of the time, but Soglin says here in Dane County it's taking nearly three minutes.
One situation Mayor Soglin used as an example was a deadly fire on October 16th last year. Fire fighters were dispatched three minutes and 48 seconds after the call came in. Madison fire fighters say a house fire can double in size every 30 seconds.
"We have got to protect the citizens of this city. Our primary responsibility is their health and safety," Soglin says.
The idea has come up that Madison should break off and start their own call center, because city officials say their needs are not being met at this time. The center currently has 87 staff members who dispatch for 85 different agencies in Dane County. Administrators say they receive nearly 400,000 calls every year with about 300,000 actual dispatches. Dane County 911 Director John Dejung says a separate call center in Madison would be costly and ultimately ineffective.
"We would be duplicating services, duplicating expenses," Dejung says. "We would have a right hand and a left hand and you know how that works sometimes. The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing."
Parisi agrees, but says if it came down to it he'd support the city's decision to branch off.
"I think it's time to tone down the hyperbole. We all want this to work. Let's work together in a constructive manner," Parisi says. "I think we can do it this way, but if the mayor doesn't, we're perfectly happy to cooperate in the transition to a city only 911 center."
Members of the Dane County Towns Association are also frustrated with the dispatch mistakes. Wednesday night they invited Dejung to come and speak at their monthly meeting. The association represents 28 towns in Dane County that are also serviced by the 911 center. Association vice president Tim Roehl says he has heard of a few towns who have experienced errors under the new software system.
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