County to hire 911 director for future consolidation

Ty Thompson
Press Argus-Courier
The Van Buren 911 dispatch center will be consolidated with two others in the county into one center at the Crawford County Sherriff's Department.

The Crawford County Quorum Court is looking for a 911 director for the upcoming consolidation. 

Currently, the county has a 911 advisory board, but the board has appointed a committee made up of the county's police chiefs, fire chiefs, EMS, and sheriff's department. 

Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap said he hopes to appoint a 911 director to be in charge once the 911 dispatches of the county have been consolidated. The new director will become a county employee. 

"I'd like to get this person into place as we're getting the standard operating guidelines together, and as we're working through the technical parts," said Gilstrap. 

There are 24 dispatch positions in the county and the consolidation will reduce that number to 13, including the director. Gilstrap believes this will be one of the largest tasks he has operated. 

Gilstrap hopes to have a plan by June that can be submitted to the state 911 board. This means that whoever is hired by the county will need to be hired beforehand.

"The committee is ready to get the transition going," said Gilstrap. 

The timeline proposed in the bill states that the state will have its own plan for consolidation in January of 2022.

911 consolidation background

Arkansas voted in 2019 to consolidate 911 dispatch centers across the state. There are 120 dispatch centers in the state of Arkansas and the state hopes to bring that number down to 77. 

In Crawford County, there are three 911 dispatch centers. This includes Van Buren, Alma, and the Crawford County Sheriff's Office between Van Buren and Alma on Highway 64. 

After the consolidation, there will be one for the entire county at the sheriff's department. 

Gilstrap believes that there has been a good system previously, and no problems have arisen in the past, but problems in other counties have caused the consolidation to affect the entire state. 

"Other counties had some issues with emergency 911 calls being transferred multiple times before the caller was connected to the appropriate agency," Gilstrap said in a previous report. "I feel a lot of the problem was a dispatcher training issue and not an equipment issue."

The Quorum Court will discuss the hiring in their May meeting and begin to advertise for the position in the weeks following.