‘What?’ Noise invades police dispatch center

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 23, 2003

With a hand covering her ear, blocking the loud construction noise at the courthouse, a hunched-over dispatcher in the law enforcement center strained to hear a phone call.

It’s not hard to see why &045; simply look out the window of the small room that routes emergency calls in the county, and a few feet away is a construction crew.

&uot;There’s been a steady drone of noise since the beginning of construction,&uot; Albert Lea Police Assistant Chief Dwaine Winkels said. He said since the department moved in June, loud noise has intermittently made dispatchers’ jobs difficult. But for the last two weeks, after crews tore down a wall separating the dispatch from construction, the problem has been nearly constant.

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At the moment, nothing can be done. The daytime is when dispatchers have the highest volume of calls, and it’s also when the construction crew works.

It’s not something that will stop service, one dispatcher said, but it will slow it down. Dispatchers have had to tell the construction workers to stop making noise in order to hear a 9-1-1 call clearly. With less urgent calls they have had to pause, waiting for breaks in the noise, and have had to ask people to repeat things.

&uot;It’s a very difficult working environment,&uot; Winkels said, &uot;and it’s a very stressful job.&uot; He said the noise just adds to that.

&uot;Is it loud in here?&uot; Winkles yelled at the dispatchers as a drill a few yards from the door, squealed and crunched concrete.

&uot;Yes, it is,&uot; a dispatcher said when the drilling stopped, then moments later, said, &uot;Ah, quiet.&uot;

Field Superintendent Tim Harmann of Adolfson & Peterson Construction said once a new wall is built near dispatch, the noise level will lower substantially.

After the county fair, he said, there will be about a ten-day period of loud noise due to construction and demolition from above dispatch. But he expected it to be less noise than the current situation since there will be a concrete floor blocking the sound instead of a metal door. He said the law enforcement center employees have been patient.

Winkels asked that the public be patient with dispatchers, and understand that they’re not working under the best conditions.

(Contact Tim Sturrock at tim.sturrock @albertleatribune.com or 379-3438.)