Springfield 911 dispatch center voted smoke free by city council

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By Jimmie Earls

You can smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em at the Springfield Police Department, but you’ll have to take ‘em outside.

At a meeting held on Nov. 10, the Springfield City Council approved a motion to make the Springfield Police Department a smoke-free building.

Previously, employees who smoked were allowed to use a small kitchen as a smoking area. Now, no one is permitted to light up inside.

Police officers and other clerical workers may go outside to smoke, but dispatchers must work a straight shift without leaving the dispatch room and they cannot smoke in the dispatch room because it will damage the equipment. Four out of the five dispatchers employed by Springfield are smokers.

“It’s amazing how many one-person dispatch centers there are in the state of Kentucky,” said Springfield Police Chief Fred Armstrong. “They (the dispatchers) are somewhat confined to their geographical area.”

Due to the nature of their jobs, dispatchers must be ready at a moments notice in case a call comes in. The dispatcher area has been designed with its own bathroom and it is outfitted with a 911 telephone and radio equipment in case a call comes in during a bathroom break.

“All dispatchers with a LINK/NCIC terminal must be certified according to the KRS code,” added Armstrong. “The only way we can schedule lunch hours and breaks is to hire additional personnel.”

The move to go smoke-free does not come without its critics.

“I don’t agree with it,” said dispatcher Anna Wethington, “Dispatchers are in here for eight hours. Sometimes I stay over to work extra, so that is either 10 or 12 hours and we cannot go outside. The dispatchers have nowhere to go to smoke.”

In unrelated news, equipment at the 911 dispatch center will soon be upgraded. Kevin Devine, director of the Office of Emergency Management, reported on the receipt of a $105,000 grant to help pay the cost of upgrading the current 911 center. The cost of the upgrade will cost in the neighborhood of $240,000. The balance of the cost will be paid by money the PSAP board has on hand, so no public money will be used to fund the upgrade.

Sealed bids for the project will be accepted until Nov. 21 when the contract will be awarded. Once the contractor has been chosen, Armstrong expects the new equipment to be operational by March 2009.

In other business:

Chief Armstrong announced a plan to extend the 35-mile-per-hour speed limit along Lincoln Park Road, Perryville Road and Main Street to further the distance golf carts can travel within city limits.

“What we wanted to do is include as much of the city as we could,” Armstrong said. “Who wants to get into an argument over driving your golf cart 30 feet further they you were supposed to? It just eliminates future problems.”

The expansion will include Main Street westbound to the KY 55-555 intersection, Lincoln Park Road north to 555 and Perryville Road east to the city limits. Southbound Lebanon Road is already 35 mph to the city limits.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dec 15 at Springfield City Hall.