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Williamston Highway Patrol communications center on chopping block

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WILLIAMSTON, N.C. -

A Highway Patrol communications center serving 20 counties in Eastern North Carolina is on the chopping block.

In his proposed budget, Gov. Pat McCrory says he wants to shut down the Williamston center, along with two other centers in Greensboro and Asheville, to save $1.8 million.

The proposal would eliminate 36 jobs state-wide, including 12 jobs in Williamston. Four other employees from the Williamston office would be offered new jobs at the Raleigh communications center if they're willing to relocate, said Dept. of Public Safety spokeswoman Pamela Walker.  

Walker says the 600 daily calls processed at the Williamston center to dispatch troopers to car accidents and emergencies across the East would instead be routed to Raleigh dispatchers – a move that worries some local emergency responders.

"You can't reduce a work force and improve work output," says Williamston Fire Prevention Captain Stacey Pippin. "If they move all the telecommunicators to Raleigh, the call volume may be so high that there may be some delays in response times. If there is a delay, it potentially affects the motoring public. Or if there are delayed reactions for the patrol working the roads, it may delay transport times."

But Walker disagrees, and told 9 On Your Side she's confident the consolidation won't impact safety.

"The communications centers consolidation ensures a more efficient and effective communications process," she says. "We very carefully and diligently studied what our options were across the department and with advancements in technology, we feel we will be able to manage this reorganization and we do not anticipate any impact on response times."

Local Highway Patrol officials said they were not allowed to comment on the situation. But Captain Pippin says, "It would definitely be detrimental to local troopers."

He continued, "Certainly, it would be frustrating for them because there are local people working here. The local troopers are able to put a face to that voice on the other end of that radio and vice-versa. In emergency situations where a trooper may be in trouble or in jeopardy, sometimes that inflection in their voice can be really told immediately from someone who's familiar with them. And when you get so far away from a personal contact, it becomes just another voice."

Keep in mind, the center consolidation is in McCrory's proposed budget, so nothing is set in stone yet. But Walker says her department staff fully supports the governor's goals and says they will try to help the employees who are affected by the lay-offs.

 

 

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