Owatonna could host Mower County dispatch

Published 7:23 am Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mower County’s dispatch services could be moving to Owatonna.

Instead of remodeling dispatch as part of the law enforcement remodel, the board of commissioners is looking into regionalizing the county and city’s dispatch services by joining with Rice and Steele counties, which currently have a joint facility in Owatonna.

“With this remodel, I think it’s important to at least research that avenue ? if it’s a possibility and if it would work,” said Commissioner Mike Ankeny.

If dispatch was regionalized, the county and city could forgo a major expense of the potential LEC remodel. According to County Coordinator Craig Oscarson, dispatch is one of the largest costs of the potential project. The dispatchers have had issues with tight space, as some of the equipment has overheated and malfunctioned. Some equipment also needs to be replaced.

The board is requesting the city jointly pay for a study about the possibility. The study would determine how much it would cost to move dispatch, what equipment would be needed and how service would be affected.

Steele and Rice counties have used the central facility in the Owatonna Police Station, 204 E. Pearl St., for more than a decade, and it was built to house dispatch for one or two more counties.

If dispatch services were to be relocated to Owatonna, Oscarson said the level of service would likely remain the same because the technology is available for such a move.

Oscarson has spoken with Steele and Rice county officials, and he said they’ve been open to the possibility.

Rice and Steele counties previously received a $25,000 grant for the project, and that grant could still be available to cover the costs of the study.

Otherwise, the city and county could use portions of the $1.6 million the two set aside for the LEC remodel to cover the cost of the study, which is expected to cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

Oscarson said it could affect future budgets as well. Sheriff Terese Amazi said she’d be open to the possibility.

“I think we would support anything that saves taxpayer’s money at this point,” Amazi said. “We all know we can’t continue to operate with budgets being what they are.”

If the city agrees to look into the possibility, Oscarson estimated it will take a few months to look into the possibilities. The study could be completed by the end of summer or early September.