Perry County Takes Next Step Toward Future Of 911 Operations

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Perry County took the next step toward 21st century emergency service, with village and county agencies agreeing in principal to share 911 response duties.

Technical Advisor Committee (TAC), following recommendations of a survey conducted last year by Cleveland State, suggested that a consolidated 911 be housed at the municipal building in New Lexington.

John Arkley, mayor of Shawnee and a member of the village fire department and the TAC chair, relayed the suggestions from the survey to New Lexington council saying, “This is the most important service that government provides. Our goal is to improve the quality of service and the improved use of all county first-responder resources.”

The TAC has spent more than three years working on emergency response improvements. Arkley said mandates from the state that push consolidation turned the group’s focus toward that area.

The TAC is a group comprising representatives from each corner of Perry County, with mayors, trustees, fire and ems responders, law enforcement and county officials attending monthly meetings.

“We are at the point where it’s not if we are consolidating but where the new 911 center will be housed,” commissioner Ed Keister told the council. “It is something that will improve the emergency response for all of Perry County including New Lexington.”

Monday night the village council approved the use of the building, which currently also houses the police and fire departments and the villages emergency dispatchers, as the primary dispatch center. The Cleveland State survey recommended the village facility because it is a more modern one than the dispatch area currently used at the Sheriff’s Department, and it is a more conductive environment with more room.

There is no set time table in place yet for a centralized dispatch location. When the move is complete, three dispatchers will be on duty at all times including two downtown and one remaining at the sheriff’s office.

“No major remodeling will be needed (at the municipal building)” Arkley said. “We need a secondary PSAP, which is why one dispatch will be at the Sheriff’s Department.”

Dispatchers will be employed by the county. Keister said the county will assume 85 percent of the cost of operating costs, while the village will save money in the long run because of the decrease in actual employee wages.

Keister said the county will draw funding for the project from a 3 percent sales tax passed a few years ago; 85 percent of that funding raised will go toward the new dispatch plan.

New Lexington Police Chief Scott Ervin said it cost the village approximately $170,000 last year in wages and supply costs to operate the dispatch services, which includes one full-time and nine part-time workers. Under the current plan, the commitment to the village would be $100,000 per year. The Sheriff’s Department uses four full-time and four part-time dispatchers.

“Anytime you can unite forces makes you stronger,” Sheriff Randy Barker said. “My primary concern is the day-to-day operations to be performed in my office.”

With the location for the consolidated dispatch secured, the TAC has 90 days to submit its plan to the state, more than enough time to iron out any concerns, Ervin said.

“This is an opportune time,” Ervin told the council. “And we need to get in on the ground floor. If the state mandates come down we (the village) would be standing alone and the era of standing alone is over.”

Under the new plan, all dispatchers would be EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatch) trained and certified. That would allow the dispatcher to give pre-arrival emergency instructions to a caller while remaining on the call until the first responder arrives. Such things as CPR and bleeding control are not possible with the current operating structure.