INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- When someone dials 911, dispatchers are the first to respond.
It’s a job Linda Hartley says is no easy task.
“It's a high stress, very demanding job, but very rewarding,” Hartley said.
Hartley worked as an 911 dispatcher in Independence for 38 years.
“I started out of high school in '73, when we were still at the old building up off the Square” she said. “Then we moved into what I refer to as the new building in '74 -- March of '74.”
Now, that building will soon become the old one.
Money from a public safety sales tax Independence voters passed in 2004 and renewed in 2015 will go towards the new communications center.
“Right now they spend, you know, 12 hours in a basement, you know, at the police station -- so this is going to be a much nicer facility for them,” Independence Police Officer and Spokesman John Syme said.
Hartley was one of several people to see the groundbreaking ceremony at the new center’s location, near the Independence Utility Center on East 23rd Street.
“It's going to be so awesome,” Hartley said. “They actually got windows. They're not going to be in the dungeon.”
The new 6,000 square-foot center will house 911 dispatchers for the police and fire departments, with 14 dispatch consoles.
“We've been envisioning this project for more than a decade and it's just so exciting to be here today,” Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said.
Syme said the new expansion will make more room for future technology and employees.
“The communications field is very difficult as it is,” Syme said. “It's really hard to find the right people for that kind of job because it's very demanding, but it's critical for emergency services."
The building is expected to be completed by May 2018.