BOZEMAN – In Bozeman, two unions made up of firefighters and police officers say they are concerned with how the Gallatin County 911 Dispatch Center is being run.
The Bozeman Police Protective Association and the Bozeman Fire Fighters Local 613 drafted a letter to the Gallatin County Administrator, saying there are issues dating back years.
The unions say that letter is a vote of no confidence in the 911 center.
The seven-page no-confidence letter was sent to Gallatin County Administrator Jim Doar, dated last Friday.
According to the letter, the unions say the dispatch center has run into problems over a long period of time, including concerns with transparency, not hiring a permanent director and an overall degradation of services.
“When you lose communications, that opens up mistakes that could potentially be made and result in injuries or deaths.”
In the service of saving and protecting lives, time and managing that time is key.
Bozeman Police Protection Agency president Anthony Hutchings says that’s how the unions’ conversation began.
“What we are looking for is the hard evidence of why are we choosing this route we’ve been taking when it’s not working,” Hutchings says.
Hutchings says the Police Protection Association’s and Fire Fighters Local 613’s letter states and notes several key factors, including under-staffing issues with 911 and outdated communication.
He does say that this is not a new issue.
“The issues that we were experiencing with just inside Bozeman with law enforcement was our radios just weren’t getting out and it was a safety risk,” Hutchings says.
The letter also states that out of 611 sirens this year, only 129 of those calls met the operation procedure goal of 60 seconds in response time.
In a statement, county administrator Jim Doar said “a complaint from a labor union is an issue between that group and its employer and we are not going to get in the middle of that” and “I will be writing a letter to City Manager Andrea Surratt that addresses our concerns.”
Sheriff Brian Gootkin says while the unions’ concerns are heard, dispatchers have been working hard.
“I understand and respect the city’s position and their concerns,” Gootkin says. “The county is in a unique position where we have to worry and work with everyone in the county. That’s 22 emergency responding agencies so we can’t just be focused on one or two agencies. We have to be focused on everyone.”
He adds while a former sheriff’s department employee serves as the interim director, the center fully cooperates with all agencies.
“He is not in there permanently,” Gootkin says. “I’ve made that crystal clear since day one, but for him to inherit and step up and take on that challenge, I cannot give them enough credit.”
While the unions wait for a response, Hutchings says first responders will not falter in doing what they do best.
“There won’t be any loss of services from us,” Hutchings says. “We’re going to keep doing what we do and provide them the best police and fire services that we can for this community.”
The unions gave the county a deadline of this Friday, April 26 to respond.
Hutchings says if it isn’t met, the groups will reconvene and discuss other options to move forward.