Shawnee County Emergency Communication Center preparing to hire additional dispatchers; commission approves design work for jail

Shawnee County commissioners Thursday requested an update on staffing levels at the Emergency Communication Center. (Luke Ranker/The Capital-Journal)

The Shawnee County Emergency Communication Center is close to hiring three new dispatchers to alleviate long work hours, Sheriff Herman Jones said Thursday during the county commission meeting.


The embattled call center has faced high turnover and low staff levels for years, resulting in former city manager Jim Colson in late 2016 calling for the sheriff’s office to relinquish management of the Emergency Communications Center. Since then, the county hired a civilian director and has sought new hires.

“We’re constantly looking for new folks,” Jones said.

The three new hires are currently going through a training academy, Jones said. The department also is hiring two more deputies this year and as many as three in the first months of 2018.

Jones’s brief update on staffing levels came after commissioner Kevin Cook noted the department had stopped providing quarterly updates about conditions at the dispatch center. Jones said he would appear later this month with a full update. Ahead of the the update, the commission approved more than $230,000 to lease four Chevy Tahoe pursuit SUVs and $150,000 in fuel for the sheriff’s office.

The commission also approved $45,000 to study how space at the jail could be better used.

KBS Contractors will provide design work for possible renovations at the adult detention center, deputy director Tim Phelps said. Three companies submitted bids for the project, but KBS has “nearly double the experience” with jail facilities.

KBS first will look at separating the courthouse transport area from the book in area, he said.

“Right now, we have inmates flowing in all directions, which is always a challenge,” he said.

Designers also will consider how to remodel a former kitchen into mental health offices and expand the book-in area.

Also at the meeting:

— Commissioner chairman Bob Archer reminded department heads “no one in Shawnee County has the authority to overspend their budget.”

— The commission deferred action on buying more than 130 computers at a cost of $120,000 after commissioners questioned replacing 30 to 50 computers in the Shawnee County Election Office.

— Approved a contract through 2027 with Lake Shawnee Golf Management to manage Cypress Ridge, Lake Shawnee and Forbes Field golf courses at total cost of more than $2.6 million. Lake Shawnee Golf Management has county golf courses since 2014 and since 2015 golf services at Cypress Ridge and Lake Shawnee have not been subsided with tax dollars.

— Approved distributing approximately $50,000 in transient guest tax to the Kansas Expocentre for marketing expenses. The county levies a 7 percent tax on the single hotel in unincorporated Shawnee County.