Mercedes emergency dispatch relocating to Weslaco

The city of Mercedes plans to move its police and fire department dispatchers to the Mid-Valley Regional Communications Center in Weslaco within the next 60 days.

Currently, communication specialists located within the two departments in Mercedes dispatch police officers and firefighters to calls.

The move to the regional dispatch center coincides with the city of Mercedes’ ongoing effort to establish a city-run ambulance service this year.

The Mercedes City Commission approved relocating the dispatchers to the center upon a recommendation from the city’s consultant, state Rep. Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco, himself a former firefighter. Mercedes hired Martinez last year to review and provide recommendations for establishing the city-run ambulance service, a similar program to Weslaco’s, one of the only cities in the Rio Grande Valley operating its own EMS.

Mercedes pays Martinez $4,000 monthly for his work as a consultant.

The Mid-Valley regional dispatch center was established in 2015 to improve emergency response times by consolidating dispatchers at one location.

“It’s very impressive,” Mercedes City Manager Sergio Zavala said of the center. “I think it’s going to be great (to transition into the center).”

When residents call 9-1-1 from cellphones, calls typically are routed to the nearest city where dispatchers answer the lines. Dispatchers there then reroute calls to the proper jurisdiction.

The communications center, however, was created to speed up the process, since police and fire departments within the Mid-Valley can be sent to calls by dispatchers at the center.

“It’s critical that in today’s circumstances that we are able to get emergency responders to a location of the emergency as quickly as possible,” former Weslaco-Donna Emergency Manager George Garrett previously told The Monitor. “By consolidating the cities into one facility … the operators will be able to handle all cities — 24 hours, seven days a week — for any type of emergency.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect the correct amount in which Rep. Armando Martinez is paid for his consultant work.