The Illinois State Police (ISP) is looking at a proposal to consolidate 20 ISP communication centers down to four, putting a call center in Ullin on the chopping block in another budgetary maneuver proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn looking to trim the states budget.
As a part of Quinns proposal for fiscal year beginning July 1, the plan would consolidate dispatching services to call centers in Du Quoin, Springfield, Sterling and Des Plaines allowing for the closures of Southern Illinois call centers in Ullin, Carmi and Effingham.
The Effingham Daily News reported in March “the move is estimated to cost $15 million up front to retrofit the four remaining centers” and “the consolidation will reportedly save the state $1.2 million a year.”
“Now wheres the cost savings in that,” asked Kevan Plumlee, Marion representative for American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31, in a phone interview with the Goreville Gazette Tuesday. Plumlee is working with his council to block the closures, which is gathering letters of support from area governments and organizations all requesting further review of the proposed consolidations.
Johnson County, Vienna and Goreville officials have all signed letters of resolutions in support of keeping the call center in Ullin operational. An online petition drive that began last month by concerned citizens and taxpayers of Illinois claims the consolidation will greatly affect quality of dispatching, officer safety and sever an important link to the local community. It has reached more than 400 online signatures as of Tuesday.
“I work in Metropolis and have worked as a 911 dispatcher for over 10 years in another state,” writes Kelly Logan of KY in support of preventing the consolidations. “Having people that know the area is very important. Many people who call do not know where they are and can only give landmarks. It is very difficult to pinpoint the area if you do not know it.”
Logans comments are part of the argument in keeping the local call centers open, said Plumlee. He said in addition to losing dispatchers who know and understand the area, the facilities will continue to require staffing because of a little-known-law called the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.
According to the Infant Protection Act, “every police station must accept a relinquished newborn infant,” and this, said Plumlee, will require such facilities in Ullin to remain staffed 24/7.
“There’s no cost savings by keeping [the] offices open and running them at full capacity other than [by staffing them] with dispatchers,” said Plumlee, questioning the proposal’s long-term plan. “Once they remove the dispatchers, would the state staff the facility with troopers who average a higher pay? How will it all play out? Nobody has thought this through.”
A call to Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond’s office was made and an assurance of a return call before the Gazettes deadline was offered, but at the time of this writing the call was not returned. In the Effingham Daily News article, Bond denied the claim that the consolidation would come at a cost to public safety.
“The same level of service will be provided and there will be no impact to public safety,” she said in the article. “This agency would never consider any option that would jeopardize officer safety or public safety.”
If the call centers consolidate, up to 40 layoffs are planned statewide and while the Gazette could not verify it with the ISP, Plumlee said for dispatchers in Ullin to keep their jobs they would be required to travel to Du Quoin and back, an estimated three-hour drive roundtrip, or move closer.
“At a time when our state is in a budget quandary, our state cannot afford to spend massive amounts of money on something that does not need to be fixed,” the online petition states as its sponsors strive to keep Ullin and other call centers open.