Outdated facilities and technology will result in the closure next Fall, of the Iowa State Patrol Communications Center, near Lewis. Thomas Lampe (Lamp-ee), with the Department of Public Safety’s Interoperability Communications Bureau, said the decision was made to move their operations out of Cass, to Buena Vista County.
(Lampee said the facility near Lewis was built in the 1950’s, and because it would be too costly to update, those operations are being moved to Storm Lake. Troopers will still be located in this area, the only difference is that they will be dispatched out of Storm Lake. The Storm Lake Communications facility – a hardened bomb shelter -will be remodeled to accommodate the added staff.
Six employees at “State Radio” (as it’s called) near Lewis, are being offered similar jobs at the Storm Lake Communications Center. The new, statewide communications system, according to Lampe, will make the move even more advantageous and efficient. Some have expressed concerns, however, that the dispatchers in Storm Lake will not be familiar with locations in southwest Iowa, some of which are referred to by names other than what’s on a map.
Lampe says there will be no difference in coverage or quality of service. He said also, since some, if not all of the dispatchers near Lewis may elect to move to Storm Lake, their familiarity with the area will be helpful in directing Troopers to where help or service is needed. He says they’ve given their personnel a year to make the decision.
The current building, he says, just doesn’t meet the standards, both in communications and technology. Lampe said the twin structure to the one located near Lewis, was closed near Fairfield, and those operations and positions were moved to Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. The old Fairfield coverage area, he says, is being dispatched out of Cedar Rapids. The changes, Lampe says, are a reflection of a request by the Iowa Legislature, to consolidate the PSAP’s (Public Safety Access Points) in the State.
For the past several years, state budget cuts have forced the Iowa State Patrol to cut the number of Troopers serving on the Patrol. Lampe says budget cuts were not behind the decision to close the facility near Lewis. The Patrol, in fact, is in the process of recruiting a new class of Public Safety candidates to replace the Troopers who have accepted early retirement.
Cass County 9-1-1 Director Rob Koppert says the eventual ceasing of operations at State Radio will NOT affect 9-1-1 services in Cass County or the surrounding area. 9-1-1 calls will continue to be answered locally.