The City is considering an ordinance for first reading on Monday, July 20th. What does the ordinance include? How does the public participate in this process? When would the change in service take place?
The City of Glendale is considering contracting with the City of Kirkwood for dispatching and ambulance/EMS services. The City currently runs its own dispatch center and utilizes Abbott Ambulance, a for-profit entity, for ambulance/EMS service. Glendale’s dispatch center is the smallest PSAP (public safety answering point) in St. Louis County.
The ordinance to approve the contract requires two readings. The first reading will take place on July 20th, 2020 and the second is scheduled to take place on August 3rd, 2020.
Public participation in this process can take one of three forms:
If the Board of Aldermen gives final approval to the ordinance on August 3rd, dispatch and ambulance service will transition on January 1, 2021. The proposed contract is for a 5 year term.
How long has the Board of Aldermen been considering contracting with another agency for dispatching services? Why is this being considered now?
The Board of Aldermen has been examining the issue of whether to outsource dispatching service for nearly a decade. This examination has included multiple evaluations of the City’s options by the Board of Aldermen, a professional study done in 2017 by ESCI, a consulting agency specializing in public safety, and most recently an in-house study conducted by a dispatch sub-committee of Aldermen, the City Administrator, Police Chief, and Fire Chief. Both studies can be found at the bottom of this FAQ.
The issue is being considered now because the opportunity exists to improve ambulance service, lower costs to residents, and upgrade dispatching capabilities. While the Board has been studying this issue for some time, the impact of COVID-19 on the economy has helped bring consideration of this agreement into focus.
Why is the City considering contracting with Kirkwood for dispatching service rather than continuing to run its own service?
Glendale’s dispatch center is currently staffed by only one dispatcher on duty at any given time, 24 hours per day. To maintain this coverage, Glendale employs 3 full-time (FT) dispatchers and a varying number of part-time (PT) dispatchers. While many PSAPs operate with one dispatcher on duty, Glendale is the only single-dispatcher PSAP in St. Louis County and there are inherent risks to this structure. For example, a single dispatcher could become incapacitated due to medical emergency (stroke, seizure, heart attack, etc.) or become overwhelmed if multiple major events occur at once, such as during a natural disaster.
If the Board of Aldermen approves the contract, the City of Kirkwood will add to their staff and employ 3 dispatchers on duty at any given time, except between the hours of 2-6 am, when only 2 dispatchers will be on duty. Additionally, Kirkwood dispatchers are EMD (emergency medical dispatch) certified while Glendale’s are not.
In addition to the safety improvements offered by joining Kirkwood’s dispatch, significant financial savings may be realized by a switch as well. The City could realize nearly $100,000 in annual savings by utilizing a contracted dispatch service, depending on the configuration of administrative staff hired to assist the Police Department. These savings are more important than ever in light of the financial difficulties created by COVID-19 and declining sales tax revenues broadly in St. Louis County independent of the pandemic.
Why switch from Abbott Ambulance to Kirkwood Ambulance Service?
Abbott Ambulance is a for-profit ambulance/EMS service provider. By switching to Kirkwood ambulance, Glendale residents will receive service from an organization in greater alignment with the City of Glendale’s values. As a municipal department, Kirkwood Ambulance has a primary mission of public service as opposed to profit. Additionally, the utilization of Kirkwood Ambulance provides for a lower dispatching service price and allows the two municipal fire departments to work even closer together on a regular basis.
Who will answer the phone when I call Glendale Police (314-965-0000) for non-emergency service requests?
The City will be hiring one or more administrative assistants to assist the Police Department with their operations from 8 am – 5 pm Monday through Friday. After hours, on weekends, and on holidays, calls will be routed to Kirkwood dispatch for assistance. Anyone witnessing or aware of an emergency situation should continue to dial 911. The space in City Hall currently occupied by dispatch will instead house the administrative/records assistants for the Police Department.
What will happen to Glendale’s dispatchers if this contract is approved?
The proposed contract calls for Glendale dispatchers to be given consideration as internal City of Kirkwood employees for the additional 1 FT and 1 PT dispatch positions being created at Kirkwood. Any dispatcher experiencing a break in employment will receive a severance package.
If Glendale switches to Kirkwood dispatching will response times to calls be negatively impacted?
Kirkwood dispatch is a 24/7 operation just like Glendale’s current dispatching operation. Response times will likely improve, as Kirkwood dispatchers are EMD certified and use other technology, such as ProQA, which puts better information at the fingertips of firefighters and paramedics as they respond to a call. Being close neighbors, many if not all Kirkwood dispatchers are already familiar on some level with Glendale and will undergo training to become more familiar with Glendale.
With the passage of Proposition E, why are the savings from contracting with Kirkwood for dispatching important? What about Prop P and S?
These taxes all serve an important role in City operations. Proposition E money can only be used for employee retirement benefts. Proposition P money can be used for a variety of public safety purposes but this year, due in large part to the impact of COVID-19 on city sales tax revenues, it is being used to fund police and fire department operations. Prior to Prop E, Prop P was being used to fund the Police and Fire Pension. Proposition S revenue was used to finance the new fire apparatus and remains obligated to that debt for another 2 years.
What is the City’s budget outlook?
For many years, the City has been facing an ever-tightening budget picture. As a nearly exclusively residential community with minimal commercial and industrial property, revenues will always be constrained. COVID-19 has exacerbated these financial issues, having diminished general economic activity and spending and therefore sales tax revenues.
As a point of reference, the City’s sales tax collection was down 20% per last month’s report and was down 15% the month prior. Economists generally agree that overall economic activity will be slowed significantly, perhaps even after a vaccine for COVID-19 has been found. If some of that economic activity has permanently moved online, such as with the explosion in use of online grocery purchasing and delivery through services like Instacart, and the State Legislature does not adopt new sales tax collection rules, then sales tax revenue for Glendale may be permanently affected by this pandemic. These factors make finding efficiencies in operations more important than ever.
Due to COVID-19, the City has put wage and hour reductions into effect for Administration employees and has furloughed two Public Works employees. These measures were taken specifically to avoid a wage or benefit impact on police officers and firefighters.
Does Glendale contract with any other entities for any other municipal services?
Dispatching will not be the first service for which Glendale has contracted with another local government entity. While the City at one time managed its own building inspection program, this service was contracted from St. Louis County several years ago. Most recently the City began contracting for Vector Control services from St. Louis County and ended its own in-house mosquito fogging program in 2019. In the case of Court Administration, Glendale provides court management for Oakland and Warson Woods. Additionally, Glendale provides Warson Woods with Fire/EMS services, dispatching services, and prisoner holding. The City is always searching for partnerships which make financial and operational sense.
Fire Dispatch Sub-Commitee Report – please note that the Kirkwood proposal improved significantly from a cost perspective after this presentation was made.