With the closing of the Crosby police dispatch center Saturday, Crow Wing County is handling all calls to the Crosby Police Department.
The city of Crosby is reminding residents of the following:
* No one will answer the phone at the Crosby Police Department. All calls should go to the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department at (218) 829-4749. That department will forward calls to the Crosby Police Department.
* If someone has a real emergency dial 911 and the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department will send the appropriate emergency personnel.
* People still can call the Crosby Police Department at (218) 546-5137 and leave a voice message for the Crosby officer on duty, who occasionally will check messages.
BYLINE1:By MATT ERICKSON
CROSBY -- Bobbie Ferrari took her last call Thursday for the Crosby Police Department.
During her 28 years as a police dispatcher, Ferrari has handled calls about almost everything, from car accidents to backed up sewer systems.
But as of Saturday, Crosby dispatchers stopped taking telephone calls. The Crosby Police Department dispatch center, after more than 40 years of service to the Crosby area, ended operations at 7 a.m.
"I'm not bitter, but it is sad," Ferrari said about the dispatch center closing.
After months of debate, the Crosby City Council in July voted to eliminate the police dispatch center -- with its eight employees and a budget of $190,000 -- to reduce the city's budget. The city itself took a $131,000 hit this year when local government aid from the state was lost. LGA reductions are expected to be $240,000 in 2004.
"We're losing a lot of convenience for people, but it comes down to the fact that we can't afford it any more," said Crosby Police Chief John Drennan.
Police investigator Rick Koop said the police department averages about 20,000 calls a year, but most of them are what Koop described as service calls -- calls for power outages, backed up sewers and cut gas lines. It was that kind of service that Drennan said Crosby residents came to expect and appreciate. It's now something they'll have to learn to live without.
For years emergency 911 calls in Crosby have been handled by the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department dispatchers and forwarded to the Crosby Police Department. Now all calls are being directed to the sheriff's department. People calling the Crosby department will get a recorded message.
Drennan said he was surprised at the lack of complaints he received about the dispatch center closing, but he figures that after Saturday, when people try to contact the police department, that will change.
Out in the community, Ferrari said she's heard from many people who are sad to see the dispatch center go. She said one girl the police and dispatchers helped came to the station one day in tears.
"She was upset we were being let go," said Ferrari. "She said she appreciated how much we've helped her in the past."
Ferrari and dispatcher Mike Midthun, who has been with the police department since 1985, will stay on as a clerks at the police department. Their duties now focus on paperwork.
Before the police department got its own in-house dispatch center in the early 1960s emergency calls in Crosby were handled by the local telephone company. Once a call was received, the operator pushed a button to light up a red light outside the police department. The officer on duty went to the telephone company to find out what and where the emergency was.
Crosby was the only city in Crow Wing County to have its own police dispatch center, and all of the equipment will remain at the police department. Drennan and his staffers have spent the past few months making sure their department is compatible with the sheriff's department.
Along with changes in 911 and non-emergency phone calls, schools, banks, hospitals and other businesses will have to redirect where their alarm companies call. Crosby also had to make sure Crow Wing County could set off the city's civil defense alarms.
Drennan said there will be glitches in the early stages of the switch.
"It's going to be a learning process for all of us," said Drennan. "No doubt the service (from the county) will be good, but it will be different. (Crosby residents) knew the dispatchers. Now they're going to have to talk to county dispatchers."
And instead of 24-hour-a-day service, the dispatch center will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Caught off guard when the city council began discussing the possibility of closing the dispatch center in January, Ferrari described the past year as like "a dark cloud was sitting over us." However, she would like to see the dispatch center return one day.
"People have their hopes up it will come back," said Ferrari. "We have the equipment. We're hopeful."
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