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Transition smooth for dispatch at Dakota Communications Center

So far, so good.

Six weeks into operations at the Dakota Communications Center, Dakota County's new, central dispatch facility, things seem to be running pretty smoothly. There have been a few hiccups here and there -- firefighters getting "ghost pages" and police officers getting used to unfamiliar voices on the other end of the radio -- but, considering the magnitude of the transition, DCC executive director Kent Therkelsen is pretty happy.

"We're not where we want to be six months from now, but where we are we feel pretty good," Therkelsen said last week.

On Feb. 7 Therkelsen invited police officers and firefighters from around the county to tour the new facility, which handles dispatch operations for police and fire departments and emergency workers countywide. He wants everybody to get to know the center's dispatchers, many of whom have never worked with police officers from Rosemount.

Rosemount police chief Gary Kalstabakken said getting to know those unfamiliar dispatchers and the way they like to do things has been the biggest adjustment so far.

Sometimes that has meant asking a few more questions to get information from a dispatcher. Sometimes it has meant filtering out what is important from a dispatcher who provides a wealth of information.

"That's no different than when we were contracting with Eagan," Kalstabakken said. "If they hired a new dispatcher there was an adjustment period. Now we're going from however many dispatchers Eagan had to 50."

Farmington fire marshal John Powers, who serves on the DCC's operations committee, said there has been an effort to move away from jargon and start using plain English to make communication easier.

Kalstabakken said having all dispatching done from a central location has improved cooperation between his officers and police in Apple Valley.

"We've shared a radio system with Eagan for a long time so we were used to working with them and officers were used to backing them up," Kalstabakken said. "Even though we had a scanner that listened to Apple Valley it's not the same."

Now, Kalstabakken said, it's easy for a Rosemount officer to know when, for example, an Apple Valley officer has someone stopped near the Rosemount border. They can start heading that way in case they're needed.

Dakota County Sheriff Don Gudmundson said there has been some confusion at times whether it is up to the deputy or the dispatcher to determine whether an arrest warrant is still valid.

Still, Gudmundson said the issues have been minor.

"There's always going to be some issues," Gudmundson said. "The secret is to not get upside-down about it."

Powers said there haven't been any major technical issues since the changeover. There have been instances where firefighters received pages for fires outside their community and processing times have at times been longer than they should have been. There have also been times when police were called before firefighters for fire calls.

But Powers said everyone gets the information they need in a timely manner.

"Every day it gets a little bit better," Powers said. "There's only so many people-hours to work on the problems.... The bottom line is we're still getting calls and we're still responding."