Budget Calls For NC Highway Patrol To Close Communication Cen - WSPA.com

Budget Calls For NC Highway Patrol To Close Communication Centers, Helicopter Bases

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The Asheville-based communication center serves 17 WNC counties. The Asheville-based communication center serves 17 WNC counties.

Hundreds of calls are answered at the N.C. Highway Patrol’s Asheville-based communication center on a daily basis.

It currently serves 17 western North Carolina counties, but those days are numbered.   

As part of the state’s yearly budget, calls would be routed to dispatchers some 80-miles away in Newton.

That worries the emergency services director in Buncombe County.  He says the dispatchers in Newton may not know the area as well, which could leave you waiting longer for help to arrive.

“The more information they have and the more familiar they are with the territory they are dispatching to, the more efficient operations are going to be,” said Jerry VeHaun.    

We brought that issue up to the N.C. Department of Safety and were given this response via email:

“With advancements in technology, we will be able to manage this reorganization and do not anticipate any impact on response times or public safety."

Highway Patrol will also lose two of four helicopter bases in Asheville and Kinston.

If a chopper was requested by local authorities WNC, it will now come from Salisbury.

We also talked to officials with Polk County Emergency Services and Henderson County Sheriff's Office.  Both agencies say the loss of the helicopter will greatly impact searches, chases and drug enforcement operations.

“The quicker we can get on it and they can get on it, the better chance we have of locating a person or persons we're looking for,” VeHaun said.

Eliminating the bases will save an estimated $500,000 annually.

Closing the communication centers will save the state $1.1 million over the current fiscal year and $1.7 million during the next fiscal year.

According to the budget, a total of 30 positions will be eliminated.

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