Sunset Hills will take over 911 dispatching for Crestwood in collaboration with police

Crestwood will lay off three employees in the turnover


By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

Sunset Hills will start providing police dispatching services for neighboring Crestwood this July, after aldermen in both sister cities approved a contract this month that holds neither liable if things go wrong.

The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a $135,000 annual contract May 11 to provide police and 911 dispatching services for the Crestwood Police Department starting in July, while the Crestwood Board of Aldermen also unanimously approved the contract in a special meeting May 18.

The funds could be used for a pay matrix.

The 3.5-year contract was jointly developed by Crestwood Police Chief Jonathan Williams, who just started in January, and Sunset Hills Chief Stephen Dodge, with a 3-percent increase each year starting Jan. 1, 2023. Sunset Hills would start dispatching for Crestwood July 1 to Dec. 31 for $67,500. The first full year, 2022, would cost $135,000, then 3-percent annual hikes top out at $143,221 in 2024.

Three of Crestwood’s four dispatchers will lose their jobs under the plan, but the city pledged to help find them new employment. A fourth dispatcher would change jobs to other duties. The city wants the change because its current four dispatchers can’t provide continuous 24-hour coverage.

Sunset Hills communication officers will monitor Crestwood’s Police Department, City Hall and holding cells, as well as non-emergency phone monitoring in non-business hours. Sunset Hills could also house prisoners for Crestwood on an emergency basis with approval from each departments’ watch commander.

The decision to collaborate wasn’t always smooth sailing. The Crestwood board unanimously granted preliminary approval to the contract in its consent agenda April 27. But that same night at the Sunset Hills meeting, some aldermen cited concerns with the contract’s language and money amount and sent it back to City Administrator Brittany Gillett for further negotiations with Crestwood.

At the Sunset Hills meeting May 12, Gillett said that Crestwood had been agreeable to changing some terms of the contract, such as working in the addition of an evergreen clause that keeps the contract going until new dispatching is found, a reciprocal indemnity clause that says neither city can sue the other and changing the termination notice from 180 days to 150 days.

Discussion during the contract’s second reading at Sunset Hills did not focus on the terms of the contract itself, but rather what to do with the funds that the dispatching agreement would generate for the city. Dodge has proposed using the money to create a pay matrix for the Sunset Hills Police Department that would give officers and sergeants guaranteed raises (see above article for more).

With aldermen hung up on the issue, Mayor Pat Fribis suggested that a resolution be discussed at the board’s meeting June 8 that could direct where the dispatching revenue goes before the contract goes into effect in July, but that for the time being, aldermen could accept or reject the contract without Ward 3 Alderman Randy Epperson’s amendment to earmark the funds for police raises. Epperson said that he was agreeable to that and withdrew his motion, allowing the vote.

During Crestwood’s board meeting May 18, aldermen there approved the contract with little discussion.

“The changes (requested by Sunset Hills) are fairly minor,” said Crestwood City Administrator Kris Simpson.

Crestwood is hoping that it will be able to retain one of its two dispatching terminals at City Hall in case of a natural disaster or emergency that damages Sunset Hills’ equipment, but Crestwood Police Chief Jonathan Williams said that is up to the Emergency Communications Center, which technically owns the equipment.

The Crestwood chief said he and Dodge will go to ECC’s board in the next few weeks to plead the cities’ case for keeping a dispatching terminal on hand in case of an emergency.

“Nobody has ever done that, but I’m not sure anyone has ever asked,” Williams said. “All they would be doing is taking the equipment and storing it in a warehouse, so basically we’re providing them with free storage. It’s about a 50/50 shot right now.”

If the city is unable to keep a backup terminal, calls can be entered into a computer terminal, but they would still have to be radio dispatched by Sunset Hills.