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The Suburbanite
  • Countywide 911 dispatch center back on the table

  • Stark County safety officials once again will explore consolidating the nine independent dispatch centers that handle emergency police, fire and medical calls. The idea has been on the back burner since 2011.

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  •   The idea of merging Stark County’s nine independently operated dispatch centers that handle emergency police, fire and medical calls has once again returned to the front burner.
    Members of the Stark Council of Governments’ subcommittee that has been overseeing the creation of the proposed countywide 911 dispatch center since 2008 say recent changes in leadership at Canton and the Stark County Sheriff’s Office has renewed interest in exploring the centralized center.
    Sheriff George T. Maier took over in February and Warren Price became Canton’s safety director in April.
    “If we don’t get this done now, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen,” said Randy Gonzalez, chairman of SCOG’s 911 dispatch governance committee.
    Progress on the project stalled in May 2011 when then-Sheriff Timothy Swanson and then-Canton Safety Director Thomas Ream expressed concerns that the consolidation plan could jeopardize their multimillion-dollar radio system. Believing that the project was shelved indefinitely, Stark County commissioners began considering whether to spend the $2.6 million they still have set aside for the project on creating a countywide computer-aided dispatch system or upgrading radios for police and fire departments.
    During a work session Monday, Joseph Concatto, Canton’s former fire chief who was picked in 2009 to be the project manager to build the consolidated center, said the group of safety officials who has been evaluating the purchase of a countywide computer-aided dispatch system recommends that commissioners buy the $2.1 million system and maintenance package only if it will be used in the consolidated center. He said the committee no longer favored buying the system and sharing it with each center separately.
    Commissioners asked Concatto to update the projected operation and equipment costs for a single dispatch center and to evaluate how the budget figures could change if one or more of the existing dispatch centers opt not to participate. Figures presented in 2010 estimated that it would take $2.7 million to equip the consolidated center and nearly $5.2 million a year to operate it, but Concatto said Monday that some of those costs could be eliminated or reduced due to recent improvements to county 911 operations.
    Safety officials say that having one dispatch center will reduce the dangerous practice of transferring emergency calls from one agency to another. They warn that transferring calls increases the likelihood they will be dropped or delayed.
    Reach Kelli at 330-580-8339 or kelli.young@cantonrep.com.
    On Twitter: @kyoungREP