The Hennepin County Board on Tuesday slammed the brakes on Hopkins’ plan to close the city dispatch center and rely on county dispatch services instead.
The board’s Public Safety and Judiciary Committee voted 6-1 to set aside Hopkins’ request until the completion of a 911 study expected this summer.
“I just think it is wrong-headed, wrongly timed and the wrong answer right now, and I think we ought to wait for our study,” Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said. “We ought to get the results and figure out where we’re going rather than just sort of picking one out of the sky. ”
Commissioner Jan Callison, whose district includes Hopkins, was the only one to vote against the decision to stall the proposal.
“We were a little surprised. So, I think, was the commissioner (Callison),” said City Manager Mike Mornson, who spoke before the committee with Police Chief Mike Reynolds.
Some of the resistance appeared to arise from hard feelings left over from nearly a decade ago—when several metro communities, including Hopkins, opted to forgo county dispatch services. In November 2004, county commissioners approved a resolution barring those who declined county dispatch at the time from joining on for at least eight years.
“I know that it would be a nice fix for Hopkins right now, but there’s just too much history here to move quickly even if it seems compelling for the one city,” said Commissioner Mike Opat.
The current dispatch center is also nearing capacity. Sheriff Rich Stanek, who supports the move to welcome Hopkins, has said the dispatch center still has sufficient capacity to accommodate Hopkins—and the new center planned for Plymouth will have even more space.
But commissioners worried about the precedent it would set for other communities.
“We have had other communities that have come forward that wanted to get in. We said no way, can’t do it,” McLaughlin said. “So it seems way out of whack in terms of timing.”
Callison countered that the county is only considering a proposal from Hopkins—not from other communities. She added that the county doesn’t always get to choose its timing either. This particular schedule works for Hopkins, she said.
Tuesday’s vote does not kill the proposal. The County Board plans to take up the proposal again after the 911 study is complete, and commissioners pledged to keep their minds open.
Hopkins has good reason to keep it moving forward. It’s the smallest community in Hennepin County to have its own dispatch center and pays more per person for dispatch services than any community in the county. Reynolds estimated Hopkins could save at least $300,000 a year with county dispatch.
“We need to continue to work with them since I still think this is the best approach for us,” Mornson said.
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