PENDLETON — Umatilla County has a proposal to upgrade lighting in the sheriff office’s dispatch center after a pair of spring power outages. But when the county will make any improvements remains a question.
The dispatch area is part of the county’s Criminal Justice Center, which includes the jail. Karen Primmer, sheriff’s office communications captain, explained the justice center’s uninterruptible power supply system and generator serve the whole facility.
“It’s all one system,” she said. “Until July last year, the UPS hadn’t been replaced since the justice center was built.”
That was in 1998.
“We replaced the UPS batteries at least once,” Primmer said. “We noticed fluctuations in symmetry. Even with the replaced batteries, the system had gone past the end of its life.”
Replacing the UPS cost more than $42,000, she added.
“An outage in the jail would also compromise staff and inmate safety,” noted Sterrin Ward, public affairs captain for the sheriff’s office.
Four personnel were in the dispatch center during the April 11 outage, which happened between 5:30 and 6 p.m. And five personnel were in the room May 29 when the power went out at 2:56 a.m., according to records.
“A switch to the backup generator went bad,” Primmer explained. “Maintenance ordered a replacement, but with supply chain problems, its delivery was delayed. The May outage occurred while the switch was still broken.”
The dispatch center didn’t lose 911 service or radio during the outages, Primmer said. But darkness was a safety issue for staff. During the April outage, a single dispatch console remained operational, she said.
The dispatch center has six consoles, each with two radios, one dedicated and one backup, Primmer said. The dedicated radios are monitor-based, 700 Mhz units from the Umatilla-Morrow Radio & Data District. Neither the monitor nor backup radios went down during the outages.
Three to four dispatchers staff the 911 center on a normal shift.
“Dispatchers stayed there during the outages,” Primmer reported. “We did not abandon the center. We answered 911 calls. We used cellphones for light, but now have flashlights.”
Umatilla County and Morrow County dispatch centers are each other’s backup.
The center in 2021 took 34,002 calls for 911 and 111,053 calls for service. From Jan 1 to July 13 this year, it took 16,192 calls for 911 and 59,212 service calls.
Mark Tanner, Umatilla County maintenance director, recommended installing emergency lighting for the dispatch area at the justice center, at the board of commissioners meeting July 6. He presented a proposal of $11,669 from Pendleton Electric Co. to upgrade lighting.
Tanner proposed installing six battery backup bug-eye egress exit lights and power extension from the lighting circuit prior to the 911 area switches. The proposal also included installing 22 Fulham Hotspot H-shaped, 6-watt magnetic backup lights, with driver and battery for existing parabolic and standard three-lamp troffer fixtures.
The board discussed whether to adopt Tanner’s proposal or to fund a more comprehensive upgrade for the entire justice center facility.
County Commissioner and board Chair John Shafer said Tanner is going to check with the fire marshal to find out if the building is up to code.
“We don’t know when the final for the dispatch will be on the agenda,” Shafer said.
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