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Duluth's State Patrol dispatch center to close by November

Officials at the Minnesota State Patrol said Wednesday that the Duluth regional dispatch center will close by Nov. 1 this year as part of the agency's consolidation of 10 dispatch centers into two.

The Virginia and Brainerd dispatch offices are slated to close on or before May 1, 2013. Dispatch centers in St. Cloud, Detroit Lakes, Thief River Falls and Marshall also will close in coming months. The Mankato center closed last month.

All dispatchers at the regional sites will be offered positions at the two remaining dispatch centers in Rochester and Roseville, agency officials said Wednesday. The move, in the works since 2009, is an effort to save money and consolidate services.

The Duluth office initially had been slated to be one of three regional offices statewide but, as reported in Saturday's News Tribune, will now close as well. The Duluth office has four employees.

Several state lawmakers met with Gov. Mark Dayton and top State Patrol officials last month in an effort to thwart the regional closures. But that effort appears to have been in vain, with the agency announcing the closure schedule Wednesday in a press release.

Supporters of the plan say it will allow better staffing at a central location and thus better services for the 911 calls from the public that are routed to state troopers, conservation officers and state snowplow drivers. But critics say it's better to have the dispatchers in communities where they know the local geography and that, all else being equal, the state should keep jobs in rural parts of Minnesota.