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Dispatch center enhancing services, reducing costs

1/31/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

The Southwest Summit Council of Governments Board, from left, includes Barberton Mayor William Judge, Copley Board of Trustees President Scott Dressler and Norton Mayor Mike Zita.
Photo: Maria Lindsay
NORTON — Three communities are preparing for enhanced services and reduced costs as a new dispatch service center is created.

Officials from Barberton, Copley and Norton gathered to formalize the creation of the Southwest Summit Communications (SWSCOM) Center Jan. 24 at the new Norton Fire Station. The center will serve as a dispatch station for fire and emergency management services for the three communities.

The inaugural meeting allowed the Southwest Summit Council of Governments (SWSCOG) Board to sign and adopt bylaws, which permits the actual set-up of the SWSCOM Center, according to board officials.

The board, which includes Copley Board of Trustees President Scott Dressler, Barberton Mayor William Judge and Norton Mayor Mike Zita, also elected officers, with Zita selected as president, Judge as vice president and Dressler as fiscal officer.

The meeting was attended by police and fire department officials, as well as other representatives from all three communities.

According to Norton Administrator Rick Ryland, who spoke at the meeting, discussions to share dispatch services began in 2008 among the three communities, and a successful pilot program between Copley and Norton began in January 2009.

The move to Norton was made possible when that city built its new fire station and included space for a new dispatch center in the lower level, according to Copley Fire Chief Michael Benson. That space, along with the possibility of improved service at a lower cost, attracted Barberton to the group, he added. With Barberton joining, the call volume of the dispatch center will double to 60,000.

The group began planning for the new center when confirmation of the $300,000 Ohio Local Government Innovation Fund zero-interest loan application was received late last year, according to Ryland.

“It’s been a great effort and a uniting force in the communities,” he said.

Dressler stated the new dispatch center would offer “better service” through shared resources. 

“It will save lives, and the new technology makes it more beneficial for what we are trying to accomplish,” he said.

The new center also is expected to save all three communities money, according to SWSCOM officials.

Judge said “regionalism” is a buzzword that has been used by many communities, but Barberton, Copley and Norton “collaborated to create something that makes sense.”

“We will be able to cut costs,” he added. “We will be a leading example in the state.”

According to the loan application, the three communities budgeted $1,682,000 for dispatch in 2012. Officials estimated the total 2013 budget for the SWSCOM Center to be $1,528,237, which is a savings of $153,763. The actual savings will be less since the center will be operational for only half a year this year, according to Benson.

In addition to the $300,000 loan, each community also is providing matching funds or in-kind contributions of $70,000 to $100,000 to fund the creation of the new dispatch center, according to the application.

The loan will pay for the purchase of dispatch consoles, VoIP phones, 9-1-1 answering equipment and furniture to create four stations in addition to a station for the manager, according to SWSCOM officials.

The new center is expected to open in late June and will be double the size of the Copley site. It also will have room for growth, with the capacity to add two more dispatch positions and accommodate other communities that may want to join as a member or under contract for services, according to SWSCOM officials.

Officials are now working on setting up the new equipment, training all personnel together and switching all dispatch functions to the new center at one time to create a clean break.

“This was a long time in coming,” said Zita. “This is the start of another adventure.”

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