Dispatch consolidation study set to begin
Holly Seymour checks the three screens at her station as a telecommunications operator for police and fire emergency calls in La Grange. | Jane Michaels—Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 12, 2012 11:05AM
Savings and seamless transition are the goals of efforts to consolidate emergency dispatch services in La Grange, Western Springs and LaGrange Park.
The three communities in September hired AECOM Technical Services, based in Lynchburg, Va., to conduct a detailed study of current operations with an eye to the future.
The study’s $75,000 cost is split equally among the three villages with completion expected by the end of April.
“If we’re really going to consolidate, we need to know the details of what we’re going to do as far as technology, administration, space and equipment,” said Ingrid Velkme, assistant village manager of Western Springs. “We need to make sure it is possible.”
Consultants will visit the dispatch centers in each of the three villages to assess current organizational structure and operating procedures and inventory existing facilities and equipment.
AECOM’s proposal suggests services could be consolidated at the La Grange dispatch center, because space is limited in the other two communities. Following a remodeling program in 2006, La Grange has three consoles, potentially suitable for each of the three towns.
Each village also will be asked for data to estimate future demand for services.
The study will consider technology currently in use and make a recommendation on equipment to best meet combined and future needs.
A detailed cost analysis also is expected with projected benefits and an implementation plan. The analysis will consider a range of scenarios including no consolidation, a consolidation of technology only and a full consolidation.
A preliminary study a year ago identified opportunities to share public safety services and made seven recommendations in a three-phase approach, beginning with combining emergency dispatch services. A single dispatch center could offer the potential savings of three full-time and four part-time workers. Other communities could be invited to join the system in time.
Western Springs currently employs five full-time dispatchers, who also have record-keeping duties. La Grange employs six full-time and two part-time telecommunications operators. There are four full-time dispatchers in LaGrange Park.
The consultants propose a comparison and analysis of workers’ salaries, benefits and personnel rules. A director likely would be hired to manage the consolidated dispatch center, as well as a full-time administrative assistant.
If the villages agree to consolidate dispatching services, the consultants recommend forming a joint governing body with a board comprised of representatives from each village.
The three communities also must decide on a funding mechanism, which could be based on the number of 911 calls generated within each village and population, or a combination of factors with formulas including population, equalized assessed valuation, system usage or even an index of crime.
The consultants advise the start-up cost of the project could be significant, more than the combined cost of operating each of the three centers independently. But long-term savings could be realized in personnel and operating expenses, as well as capital equipment purchases.
Whatever the outcome of the study, Village Manager Julia Cedillo of LaGrange Park said the analysis will be invaluable in tracking current dispatching costs split between several areas of the village budget.
“Add to that increasing regulatory requirements and the cost of necessary equipment upgrades, and one can further understand the usefulness of such a study,” she said.
Andrianna Peterson, La Grange assistant village manager, said village representatives met regularly for nearly a year to determine the study’s scope with input from police and fire chiefs, administrators and elected officials.
“It’s really been a collective effort as far as the process,” Peterson said. ~.