Northwood officials are continuing to discuss the possibility of being part of a regional dispatch center with other communities in Wood County, but nothing yet has been decided.
Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer recently gave a presentation on the topic to Northwood City Council. Hummer, who is leading the effort, has made similar presentations to Lake Township, Walbridge and Rossford, which would also be part of the center.
Currently, Lake Township dispatches for Rossford, Walbridge and Millbury. Northwood has its own dispatch service for fire and police.
Hummer, Northwood Administrator Bob Anderson and other Wood County officials have been meeting since 2009 to discuss the matter.
A regional dispatch study funded by an $87,840 state grant looked into establishing a regional dispatch center and the formation of a council of governments to manage it, said Hummer.
“A consolidation of emergency dispatching services for Lake Township, the villages of Millbury and Walbridge, and the cities of Rossford and Northwood would be a better format to meet changes for the 9-1-1 system being planned by the state,” said Hummer.
The country is preparing for the transition to a “Next Generation 9-1-1” or NG9-1-1, a technological upgrade to the current 9-1-1 system. NG9-1-1 is expected to improve public emergency communications services by updating the 9-1-1 service infrastructure, which will allow the public to transmit text, images, video and data to a 9-1-1dispatch center, also known as a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).
Last February, the Federal Communications Commission, according to Hummer, gave a report to Congress that noted plans for the Next Generation system of 9-1-1, which he said would be expensive.
“But they’re not going to give us any more money,” he said. “I think we’ve heard that story before.”
The upgrade will require the installation of a costly fiber optic system, which would allow dispatch centers to receive text messages and video.
“It’s going to be very expensive, not only to put in, but to maintain. They have a plan on how we can do that. They want to lower the number of PSAPS in each county. Wood County currently has eight PSAPS. By 2018, they are only going to fund three. You will be able to fund your own, if you wish to, but if the county is not in compliance, they are going to cut 50 percent of our funding,” he said.
A regional dispatch system would provide a seamless flow of information between the jurisdictions and responders, he said.
“It would give us consistent service levels and standard operating procedures. And it would improve our staffing efficiencies,” he said.
Costs to each community, he said, would be reduced over time.
“We would be better prepared for future technology needs because we’ll be able to spread the costs. We’re not going to come in here and tell you we’re going to save a bunch of money right off the bat. But the goal is to save a lot of money over the long term and minimize our initial capital costs,” he said.
The formation of the council of governments would give equitable representation to communities that are involved.
“Equitable representation gives everyone oversight. It’s a council of governments, which you have a voice on,” he said.
“We can add additional users without them being a member of the council of government. I have been approached by other agencies that have shown an interest. If we get this up and running, they could be subscribers paying into our service. It also allows future opportunities to share functions. The more of us who come together, I think the chances of us losing our PSAP in 2018 are less. You are a force to be reckoned with. I think the more we can get on board with this, the more we’ll be able to maintain our local control and our local destiny,” he said.
Location of the regional dispatch center would be decided by the council of governments.
“The study has indicated we need about 2,230 square feet for a regional dispatch center covering this geographic area and it needs to be expandable. The Lake Township facility on Lemoyne Road is 2,200 square feet on the first floor. There would have to be building renovations, probably costing $115,000,” he said.
The Northwood facility on Wales Road would require renovations costing between $15,000-$30,000.
“It is a dedicated and secure area for dispatch - with a total of about 500 square feet. There may be some issues with expansion in the future. They would be using existing staff facilities in the building. The beauty of this is we have two facilities that would work,” he said.
Northwood Administrator Bob Anderson said the city remains noncommittal at this time.
“It’s probably a good idea on its face,” he said. “But as you all know, the devil’s in the details, getting everything together. It’s probably a good idea to keep on talking – the trustees and the affected city councils. The concept of sharing services makes sense to me. As Mark touched on, this is kind of an update to see where we go. There are some things that need to be discussed. Location is one, and cost is another thing.”
“Any thought of giving this a whirl prior to doing all this to see whether or not it would work?” Northwood Law Director Brian Ballenger asked Hummer.
“We kind of did give it a whirl – when you were gracious enough to allow our dispatch center to move in with yours for about a month,” said Hummer.
“Did it work?” asked Ballenger.
“As quick as it was thrown together,” said Hummer, “it did work. The important thing is the personalities got along.”