Breaking: Richfield to close dispatch center

Richfield’s dispatch center will close, and the city will pursue alternatives for the service, the Richfield City Council decided Tuesday, July 23.

The city will now move forward quickly in pursuing an alternative for the dispatch center after the provider of the system’s computer-aided software, Local Government Information Systems (LOGIS), established a deadline of July 25 for the city to decide whether to retain the provider’s software system.

Staying with LOGIS would have required a software investment of $382,000, plus another $460,000 in additional equipment by the end of 2015. It already costs Richfield about $700,000 per year to run its own facility, while Hennepin County is offering services at its own dispatch center for no fee. Richfield could move into a new county facility in Plymouth – currently under construction – in the fourth quarter of 2014, when the facility is expected to come online.

The city has also been in contact with the cities of Edina and Bloomington, both of which have offered to take on Richfield’s dispatch services for a fee. The county has told Richfield staff they could take on all of Richfield’s displaced dispatchers, while Bloomington has staff have said they could take on five former Richfield employees. Edina has committed to employing no Richfield dispatchers if it were to handle their neighbor’s operations.

Jobs were one factor making the council members’ decisions to close the Richfield center a difficult one. Councilmember Pat Elliott called it “one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make in 4 and a half years here.”

“Quite frankly, the ugly, ugly truth is that we have no choice,” Councilmember Edwina Garcia said, noting the financial ramifications of keeping the Richfield facility open. “It might be with a a heavy heart, but I support (leaving the LOGIS system).”

“For me it came down to the dollars,” Councilmember Sue Sandahl said, while also noting the difficulty of her vote to move away from LOGIS.

Councilmember Tom Fitzhenry provided the dissenting opinion in a 3-1 vote, noting the city decided to include a dispatch center three years ago during planning for the new Richfield Municipal Center.

“Three years ago,” Fitzhenry said, “I made that decision to support our dispatch and I’m not backing down on that.”

While voting to leave LOGIS does not necessarily close the Richfield dispatch center, the council’s vote effectively did so, a notion supported by council members’ statements. “I don’t think the city of Richfield at this point can afford to invest in additional software, which means we’ll be looking at an alternative place to be,” Mayor Debbie Goettel said.

A staff report recommended that the city select an alternative dispatch provider by August 13, the date of the next Richfield City Council Meeting.