Last night’s meeting of Jacksonville’s Public Protection Committee featured the presentation and discussion of the first real plan to combine the area’s dispatch centers under one roof.
With the end goal of combining all of the dispatch centers serving Morgan County into one building, the plan laid down the details for a proposed separate dispatch building to house the estimated 10-12 full-time dispatchers required. Under the current plan, Morgan County, Jacksonville, South Jacksonville, and Passavant Hospital would all have their dispatch needs serviced by one dispatch center.
Everyone attending the meeting, which did not include representatives from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department or Passavant, agreed that combining the dispatch centers needed to happen. The real issues on the table were how the new organization would be structured, and who would be paying for it.
Phil McCarty, 911 Director, Morgan County Emergency Management Director, and the presenter of the plan, says this is to be expected at this stage in the planning process.
“We’re still working towards that. We’re going to find a fair formula for all government entities to buy in and to fund the operation. Its a matter that we all work together to find out what the best solution is. My proposal is the first one, but we’re still working to find out what works best for the city, what works best for the county, and what works best for everyone at hand. We had to have somewhere to start, and this is a good place.”
Currently, South Jacksonville and Passavant Area Hospital have a contract with the City of Jacksonville for dispatch services to the tune of $90,000 per year, so the burden of setting up and operating this new dispatch center falls on Jacksonville and Morgan County. The early figures presented at the meeting estimated the total cost for the dispatch center will be around $700,000 a year.
The plan currently calls for a 55-45 split between the City and the County for the costs of setting up and maintaining the proposed dispatch center. Morgan County’s portion of the budget is further split with 911 Illinois, meaning the City of Jacksonville will be responsible for almost $280,000, and Morgan County will pay around $120,000 yearly.
Despite the costs, McCarty remains optimistic about the future of combined dispatch.
“We’re all just really trying to get the structure behind it. I think it’s a good thing for the county, it’s just going to take all of us working together to get there. No doubt, we’ve got the right people to make it happen.”
The last, and possibly biggest, hurdle to the implementation of this plan is the question of who the new dispatchers will answer to. Currently dispatchers are employed by the specific department they dispatch for, and answer to that department. While it may be more efficient to have all dispatchers in Morgan County under one roof, the question of who they will answer to is still up in the air.