Space to be reevaluated
By Beth Altena
By April 16, the nine jobs currently held by operators of the Michigan State Police (MSP) dispatch center in the Rockford MSP Post #61, at 345 Northland Drive, will be gone. The cuts are part of Governor Rick Snyder’s new budget and will save the state $1 million annually. According to Rockford MSP Post Commander Chris McIntire, the move makes sense, although it is a blow to the people and their families who will lose their jobs.
“It will be a seamless transition to the post,” McIntire said.
McIntire also stated that the post may be closing during the night as opposed to being open 24 hours a day, which it has been for as long as he can recall. “If anything, it will mean increased patrol for the public,” he said of the post closing at night. “It will mean the supervisor who normally would be working in here will be out on the road patrolling.”
McIntire said the news was unexpected and came quickly after Governor Snyder announced his new budget for the state on Wednesday, February 23. He described a meeting where he and other supervisors were told of the changes and the dispatch center closing is a certainty.
McIntire said the seven dispatchers have been offered transfers to either Detroit or Lansing, but the two supervisors have not been offered an opportunity to keep their jobs. He said the services will be transferred to Gaylord and Lansing and will eventually all be moved to Lansing when facilities are available.
Prior to operating dispatch out of the Rockford post, the space was used by the post for its general operations. McIntire said MSP is considering how best to use the area once it is vacated. Currently the dispatch center occupies a large room in the front southern section of the 77-year-old building.
“I didn’t see it coming at all,” McIntire said.
Formerly the center handled calls made to 911 from cell phones for the MSP fifth and sixth region, from the state line in the south up to Grand Haven, this area, and to Hart and Ionia. It made sense for Michigan State Police to handle those calls since nearly all traffic accidents now are reported by cell phone.
“No one drives home and picks up the phone to report an accident,” McIntire said.
As of January this year, the Kent County Sheriff’s dispatch took over dispatching the cell phone 911 calls.
McIntire said the switch will not lessen service to the public in any way. Closing the post overnight will also not reduce public service, and McIntire said the public almost never reported emergencies to their doors. If someone should come to the post during the night for help, the call box in front of the building will connect them to 911.
“Operationally, it is a pretty easy decision to make,” McIntire said of closing the Rockford dispatch. “It will save the state a million dollars—that’s huge.”
Personally, McIntire said he is sad to see the change. “It affects our Rockford family. We are losing them and that is sad.”
McIntire said he has worked out of the post since 1993. There are 62 Michigan State Police posts across Michigan, and the Rockford post started as a mounted division when Northland Drive was the main north-south road from Grand Rapids. McIntire said the historic building was built when troopers lived in dorm-style rooms upstairs and had to ask their commanders permission before marrying or obtaining debt. He said he loves the historic aspect of the old building and is curious about what purpose different rooms held in the past.