City Council passes joint dispatch; new center construction to start soon

By Gary Scott on December 15, 2015 at 6:46am

From left to right: Phil McCarty (Morgan County ESDA), Rex Ginder (Morgan County E-911 board), Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard, Greg Lowe (E-911 board), Lori Hartz (Passavant Area Hospital)

The approval of a joint dispatch center was made official during last night’s City Council meeting in Jacksonville.

Officials will begin work on a new center that will combine the operations at Passavant Area Hospital, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, and the Jacksonville Police Department in early 2016. Aldermen approved the resolution less than 12 hours after Morgan County Commissioners approved it.

The joint dispatch center will be operated under the control of the Morgan County Emergency Telephone Services board, which will be comprised of city and county officials.

The overall cost of the project is estimated to be about $688,000, about four-fifths of which will be covered by the Morgan County ETSB.

The estimated 2017 budget will be about $805,000. The city will carry 46 percent of the operation cost, with the remainder to be covered by the hospital, South Jacksonville, Morgan County and the ETSB.

Phil McCarty is the Emergency Services Director.

“It’s very exciting for us here in the county to be able to accomplish this. It’s a big step forward for public safety responders, as well as the people who are using 911 in the county,” he says.

McCarty notes the money approved for 911 services by the state earlier this month is only good until next June. He talks about the potential impact of the state budget impasse.

“The state government limited our funding, and when the budget didn’t pass, 911 was getting zero funding from them. That’s the biggest roadblock that we have right now, if they can’t work out budgets and can’t keep us moving forward, accruing our money, it’ll just put a stop to it until we can get solid income. That’s probably the biggest hurdle that I see from our standpoint,” says McCarty.

“Everything else is just going to be small bumps, potholes that we’re just going to have to work through as we move forward.”

Lori Hartz, the marketing director of Passavant Area Hospital, says the hospital is financially committed to the project for a three-year term.

“Passavant Hospital’s been doing medical dispatch for a long time, maybe since back in the 70s. Very pleased to be joining with the county and the city on a system that’s going to streamline that process and cut down some steps and get medical services to people in the community a lot faster,” says Harts. “So, they’re very happy to be a partner in this process, and I think they’re very pleased that this day has come where this agreement has been made.”

Also last night, aldermen approved an increase in the hotel-motel tax to eight percent. The request was made last month by Jacksonville Convention and Visitors’ Bureau President Brittany Henry for the purpose of increasing marketing efforts.

The vote was approved 8-2 on a first reading with an emergency clause, with Steve Warmowski and Marcy Patterson voting “no”. Warmowski explicitly stated his opposition to use of the emergency clause during the workshop. The second reading passed unanimously.

Warmowski was the only alderman to vote against the second reading of the 2016 tax levy ordinance.

Aldermen approved a resolution for a proposal for a surface water supply “safe yield” survey for Lake Jacksonville through the State Water Survey.

Reggie Benton of Benton and Associates told council that work was not able to be completed this year due to delays from the state after aldermen approved funding in August. City Council was asked to add another $1,068 because of rate changes. The city has already committed just over $32,000.