Council to mull plan to close NCSHP communications centers

Published 10:28 pm Saturday, April 20, 2013

Washington’s City Council, during its meeting Monday, is scheduled to consider approving a resolution opposing a proposal to close the N.C. Highway Patrol’s communications center in Williamston.
Gov. Pat McCrory, in his proposed budget, has asked the N.C. General Assembly to consider closing three of eight NCSHP communications centers and consolidating their operations with the remaining communications centers. Centers in Greensboro and Asheville would be closed under the proposal. McCrory sees the move as a way to help reduce the state’s budget.
Under the proposal, 36 civilian jobs would be eliminated. Also, 12 other civil positions at the three centers targeted for closure would be moved to other centers. The plan would save about $1.8 million annually, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety.
Closing the Williamston center would result in most of its employees being terminated, according to memorandum from City Manager Josh Kay to the mayor and council members.
“This resolution requests that our State legislators maintain Troop A Communications in Williamston as well as centers in Asheville and Greensboro in order to preserve this valuable local resource in and around our community,” Kay wrote in the memorandum.
The resolution notes that the Williamston center handles about 600 calls a day as it serves 180 troopers who cover 20 counties, many of them along the North Carolina coast. It also notes the Williamston center has been remodeled and upgraded to house the latest telecommunications technology and equipment.
The resolution notes the center is a “key employment center for our neighboring county” and “there is a concern that lives will be lost, due to delayed response time caused by operators in a
communication center centralized in Raleigh becoming overloaded and being unfamiliar with the area.”
Asked about how the closings and consolidations may affect response times by troopers, Pam Walker, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, said, “No, we don not any impact on response times.”
Walker addressed the proposed closings.
“This is in the governor’s budget, and out department support’s the governor’s budget,” Walker said Friday. “There were some difficult decisions that had to be made, but it was about efficiencies. This was just a decision that was made. … It was about being able to efficiently run operations, and technology has enabled us to make some decisions that allow us to operate more efficiently.”
Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan said, “The department supports the governor’s budget. The communication center consolidation ensures a more efficient and effective communications process. With advancements in technology, we will be able to manage this reorganization and do not anticipate any impact on response times. Should the consolidation be included in the final budget, we will do all we can to assist the employees who are affected.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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