Fairfield dispatch system overdue for replacement, police chief says

MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Fairfield’s police chief said the system that is responsible for every contact the police department has with the public probably should have been replaced years ago.

The police department’s 15-year-old computer-aided dispatch and record management system (CAD/RMS) has experienced some issues with some of the department’s equipment, “and the time for replacement has been within the past couple of years,” said police Chief Steve Maynard.

“(The vendor has) not kept up with the technological advancements that a lot of the other CAD vendors have,” Maynard said this week. “It’s clunky at best.”

Maynard’s request is part of the city’s five-year capital improvement program (CIP) plan, a document that identifies projects Fairfield department managers need and want to address.

The CAD/RMS replacement would cost an estimated $1.1 million.

“We’re at a crossroads where it needs to be done,” Maynard said Monday to City Council. “I’m afraid there will be a major failure and I don’t want that to happen.”

The dispatch also supports the city’s fire department. In 2019, the police department had more than 35,500 calls for service, and the fire department had nearly 5,700 calls.

The CIP request comes a month after Maynard asked the council to consider converting the six part-time dispatch positions to full-time to improve efficiencies. If approved, the request would provide the city’s public safety dispatch with 16 full-time dispatchers, and increase dispatch staffing to three people per shift.

The city now has 10 full-time dispatchers and can only fill two of the six part-time dispatch positions.

About 23 percent of the projects requested over the five-year timeframe of the plan are deemed “critical,” according to the CIP plan.

“The capital improvement program is a long-term financial planning tool,” said Fairfield Assistant City Manager Scott Timmer. “It helps align our strategic priorities and serves as that blueprint for the city’s continual investment in its capital infrastructure.”

Nothing discussed Monday pertaining to the CIP appropriates any money, he said. As projects come before City Council over the year, the council will decide whether to allocate the funds.

In 2021, nearly $3.85 million is needed for projects deemed “critical” with $12.99 million needed for projects marked “major.” Just more than $2 million are for projects deemed “minor,” or of lesser importance compared to the “critical” and “major” projects.

Over the past year-plus, City Council has stressed to staff the need for “clear prioritization” in relation to how the city operates, Timmer said. CIP projects are also rated in how they aligns with goals outlined in Fairfield Forward, the city’s comprehensive plan adopted in December 2019.

“Fairfield Forward was really set out to provide a critical, strategic framework for future growth and utilization of community resources,” Timmer said.

The five-year CIP total came in just under $99.5 million, with $18.8 million projected for 2021. Seventy percent of the projects in the five-year plan are expected to be funded by the city, and the rest is through outside funding and new debt.