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Shared dispatch opening in January

12/19/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

The new Southwest Summit Communications Center is shown above
A single station of the center is shown with new technology designed to offer improved services for 9-1-1 callers.
Members of the Southwest Summit Council of Governments Board include, from left, Copley Board of Trustees President Scott Dressler serving as fiscal officer, Norton Mayor Mike Zita as president and Barberton Mayor William Judge as vice president.
Photos: Maria Lindsay
NORTON — Beginning in January, dispatchers will be answering the call for help for three communities using the latest technology at the new Southwest Summit Communications (SWSCOM) Center.

The center, located inside the new Norton Fire Station, will serve as a dispatch station for police, fire and emergency management services for Copley, Norton and Barberton.

“This center will offer improved services at a lower cost for all the communities,” said Copley Fire Chief Michael Benson.

The Southwest Summit Council of Governments (SWSCOG) Board, which oversees the operation of the SWSCOM, held a meeting Dec. 12 and approved a $1.7 million operational budget for 2014. A grand opening of the new center took place after the meeting.

The SWSCOG Board includes Norton Mayor Mike Zita as president, Barberton Mayor William Judge as vice president and Copley Trustees President Scott Dressler as fiscal officer.

With Karen Gregorcic serving as the manager, the center will have a total of 19 full-time and five to six part-time employees, with four dispatchers serving per shift. The dispatchers are employees from the SWSCOM Center communities, but will soon be working under a new contract for the SWSCOM Center, according board officials.

The new center was constructed with a $300,000 Ohio Local Government Innovation Fund zero-interest loan application received last year. The loan paid for the purchase of dispatch consoles, VoIP phones, 9-1-1 answering equipment and furniture to create stations, according to SWSCOM Center officials.

The center will use the county’s 800 MHz radio system and advanced technology made affordable because of the collaborative efforts of Barberton, Copley and Norton, according to Benson.

Barberton’s funding participation in the center comes at 44 percent and Copley’s at 31 percent. Norton is paying the least at 25 percent because it is providing the space for the center, Benson added. The space for the center was included in a new $2.7 million fire station that opened in February 2011 and constructed with a capital improvement fire levy approved by Norton voters in 2010.

Benson explained this collaborative effort “literally saves lives.”

“By working as a team, we can have one dispatcher focused on the 9-1-1 caller offering instruction and another can be working to send police, fire and EMS to the caller at the same time, reducing the response times,” he said.

Benson said operational costs for the new center could be further reduced if New Franklin joins the group. Currently, New Franklin officials are attending SWSCOG Board meetings and watching how the center works to determine whether to join, he added.

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