Hopkins officials and transfer dispatch responsibilities to Hennepin County. To help residents better understand what such a switchover would mean, the city posted answers to the biggest questions about the possibility.
The proposal is not a done deal. City Council members toured the county dispatch center Tuesday and plan to discuss the issue further—including with local residents.
Until then, here’s a list of frequently asked question the city put together for the community.
Why is the City of Hopkins considering transferring dispatch services to Hennepin County?
Hopkins is one of only 11 cities in the State of Minnesota that has its own dispatch center. It is the smallest city in the metro area that does dispatch.
Hopkins is currently facing some significant equipment costs. If Hopkins continues to have its own dispatch center, the City will need to spend $50,000 this year on new equipment which will also require the City to spend approximately $25,000 per year on a service lease. The main dispatch system is scheduled to be replaced in 2018 at a cost of approximately $575,000.
By transferring dispatch services to Hennepin County, Hopkins can avoid these equipment costs plus save at least $300,000 in annual operating costs equaling over $3.8 million dollars in savings during the next ten years.
Aside from the financial savings is there any other advantage to having the County provide dispatch services?
Currently Hopkins police and fire have their own radio “main” channel. This makes it difficult for surrounding agencies and other partners in the law enforcement community to monitor our emergencies. By having Hennepin County Dispatch, we would be on the same radio “main” with several other surrounding communities to help better serve our citizens in a much more timely matter.
If the City makes this change, will I notice any difference when I call 9-1-1?
You will not experience any difference when calling 9-1-1. Hennepin County dispatchers will receive your call and then route this information to Hopkins' police or fire. This will happen as quickly as it does today.
Hopkins citizens will also experience no difference when they come into the Police Department lobby after hours. If you come into the lobby after hours you pick up a phone and ask for assistance. Rather than that phone call going to our dispatch service within the building, it would now go to a different building – Hennepin County Dispatch. Either way, the dispatcher would still need to call an officer or PSO into the lobby for assistance. The result of this would be the same time response.
What has been the experience of other cities that have switched to the County?
The citizens in other cities who have gone through this change really have not known much difference. The main change for citizens will be the use of 911 more frequently. Instead of a citizen calling the non-emergency number for a police or fire response, they will now be advised to utilize the 911 number even in non-emergency events. The non-emergency number will still be provided, but not recommended for calling if the citizen would like police response, especially after hours.
The biggest change will be for the police and fire staff. There will be new procedures for these two departments. The staff of course, will get comfortable with these changes as time passes.
When will this change take place?
No final decision has been made at this time to make the switch to the County. The Hennepin County Board has to first agree to allow Hopkins to join the other 35 cities in Hennepin County for which the County provides dispatch services. The Hopkins City Council would then need to approve this transfer.
Assuming that all the approvals were made, the tentative switchover date would be January 1, 2013.