Jax aldermen supporting combined police dispatch center in city

By Gary Scott on July 28, 2015 at 7:24am

An unofficial vote of confidence was given to the idea at last night’s City Council meeting. The plan, which would combine the city/village police call center with the dispatch sites at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and Passavant Area Hospital, has picked up steam in recent months after a decade-plus of planning that ultimately has gone nowhere.

A near-$500,000 grant in 2005 intended for a new center was instead spent on the existing systems.

Mayor Andy Ezard says the issues include where the new center would be placed, who will run it, and financing.

“It always gets down to money, but I think we’ve had good internal meetings before with all the major players. Now, let’s step those meetings up a notch now that we know that our counsel is on board and fine-tune things so, eventually, we can come back to the city council with numbers,” he says.

Morgan County Commissioner Brad Zeller said last month that officials were “further down the road” on the issue than they had been previously.

County emergency services coordinator Phil McCarty said last night that the county board and sheriff are still “neutral” on the combined dispatch agreement, but he said “we’ll push hard” with the support of the chiefs of the Jacksonville fire and police departments.

City council also gave informal approval for the Jacksonville Police Department to proceed with the completion of a shooting range.

The 200-acre site south of Lake Jacksonville will take over three years to complete by the time it’s finished. The building was put up last year. Ezard told aldermen last night that contractors are needed to seek proposals to finish the job.

“We’ve had a lot of volunteer work done, a lot of fine services in town have donated their time and manpower to see it almost completed, but we need to take that next step,” Ezard says. “The floor needs finished, I know, the hardware as far as chairs and tables and appliances, those are factors.”

Funding for the shooting range comes from the Jacksonville Police Department drug fund. Police Chief Tony Grootens said the project has been worked on by volunteers so far, including the plumbing and heating work.

Aldermen approved the first reading of a leasing of property adjacent to the city municipal building where officials with the Art Association of Jacksonville hope to put up a new arts building.

Terms of the 98-year lease require $500,000 in pledges or donations to be raised by the art association in the first 24 months of the agreement.

The lease will require a three-fourths majority vote from aldermen to pass; eight council members voted “yes” on the first reading, with two absences.

Other city council action saw two Revolving Loan Fund requests approved to Krush Nutrition and Moulish Brothers Enterprises. Several zoning ordinances were amended for properties at 403 West Walnut, 300 West Douglas and 600 North Clay.