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Joint dispatch agreement placed on hold; discussions to resume in September

Councilmen Tim Carsrud and Billy Montgomery listen to joint dispatch options presented during a special meeting on Aug. 8 (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — A joint city and county dispatch center won’t happen for another month with the Gillette City Council and Campbell County Commissioners pledging to come back to the table soon. 

During a joint special meeting on Aug. 8, councilmembers and commissioners agreed to postpone further discussions to combine the city and county dispatch centers for 30 days. The time would give Gillette Police Chief Chuck Deaton a chance to view the existing dispatch center at the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office to determine if it could absorb the city’s dispatch needs. 

It was the only resolution to come out of a special meeting called to iron out the details of a potential joint or consolidated dispatch agreement between the City of Gillette and Campbell County, a discussion that has been ongoing for the better part of a year. 

During the meeting, the resolution took a backseat while the council and commission debated on where the joint dispatch center would go. One option sought to separate the dispatch center from the sheriff’s office by constructing a new building or renovating an existing one. The other option would involve expanding the sheriff’s office dispatch center to accommodate the city. 

Having the dispatch center in a neutral location separate from the police department and sheriff’s office was a desire expressed by Councilmember Jim West. The call for independence was also taken up by Councilmember Nathan McLeland. 

However, separating the dispatch center from a law enforcement facility would come with an additional challenge, security, according to Sheriff Scott Matheny, who said both dispatch centers are currently hard targets surrounded by people with guns. 

If the center was separated from the police department and the city, both entities would have to consider employing security to protect it. On the other hand, the sheriff’s office dispatch center was designed with expansion in mind, Matheny said, replying to a suggestion from Commission Chairwoman Colleen Faber to wall off the existing dispatch center to separate it from the sheriff’s office. 

Additionally, the existing sheriff’s office dispatch center is about to have even more room with the county planning to move Campbell County Emergency Management out of the space and into the annex building on Gillette Avenue. With the space, the sheriff’s office dispatch center would be more than capable of accommodating the city’s dispatch center, according to discussions. 

During the meeting, Deaton indicated he would be willing to see the sheriff’s office dispatch center for himself to make a determination on whether the city’s needs could be met there. However, he also said he’d been under the impression that the joint dispatch center would go into the annex building and expressed disdain that he was not notified of the commissioners’ decision to take the option off the table and had to read about it in a local news article. 

Councilmember Tim Carsrud, who had taken part in the 2016 joint dispatch discussions that ultimately fell apart, said that if Deaton liked what he saw at the sheriff’s office, then he would be in favor of moving the city’s dispatch center there.