Ellisville’s Central Dispatch to meet needs of Mehlville fire district in 2013
By: Jim Erickson
The Central County Emergency 911 Board of Directors has approved a contract to supply dispatching services to the Mehlville Fire Protection District. Effective July 1, 2013, the contract represents a first step in what could become a major change in how 911 calls are handled and relayed to first responders that provide firefighting and emergency medical services in St. Louis County.
The move also will mean that South County Fire Alarm, the fire and EMS dispatching service the Mehlville district now uses, will cease operating, at least in its present form, on July 1. Mehlville is one of the founders and owners of South County and provides a major part of its operational funding. Mehlville also has two of the three directors on South County’s Board.
Mehlville Chief Brian Hendricks confirmed that South County’s Board has voted to end operations as of July 1. He added that he couldn’t speak to what other agencies that use South County’s services may decide to do as far as maintaining a dispatch service in some other configuration.
An update from Robert Schultz, Central County legal counsel, at the Nov. 19 Board meeting raised additional questions about how many other agencies that South County now serves eventually will remain. Schultz noted that contract drafts similar to the Mehlville agreement have been sent to the Valley Park Fire District and the Affton and Pacific fire protection districts for their consideration.
Those three districts also are served by South County. Other agencies involved in the dispatch operation are the Crestwood Department of Fire Services and the Fenton, Lemay and Eureka fire protection districts.
Located on Weis Avenue just north of Manchester Road in Ellisville, Central County’s facilities were built to accommodate growth in its operations. The center also made recent overtures to the Pattonville and Robertson fire protection districts and the West Overland EMS and Fire Protection District to handle its dispatching needs, but there has been no official word on those proposals.
The potential for a large scale expansion earlier prompted the Central County Board to hire Colleen Dealey of Staunton, Ill., as a consultant to advise it on how best to handle what could be rapid growth in a short period.
Dealey made a presentation on her findings at the Nov. 19 meeting and, after a closed door session to review the Mehlville contract and related expansion issues, directors voted to extend the consulting agreement with her.
In her remarks, Dealey noted that Central County’s advanced technology gives the agency a competitive advantage in attracting new customers.
Hendricks reinforced that view in a later interview.
“We’re looking forward to our relationship with Central County and the services it will provide,” Hendricks said. “As fire chief, one of my primary goals is providing the best possible service to taxpayers and doing that in a fiscally responsible manner.
“Dispatching is a vital part of delivering a better, faster response on calls involving fires and medical emergencies. I’ve seen Central County’s facilities and the kind of dispatching service it provides to help our people get to where they are needed as quickly as possible.
“That’s not a reflection on the personnel at South County. It’s simply a factor in how we’re able to go about our job.”
The Mehlville-Central County agreement runs through 2018 and is automatically renewable unless either party gives written notice to end it. There is a 30-day opt-out provision that could apply if any aspect of the contract is found to be invalid or unenforceable, resulting in a material effect on either party’s rights or obligations.