City, county emergency dispatch centers to merge after New Year

The county and city emergency dispatch centers will begin a long-awaited merger after the New Year.

Huntington Police Chief EJ Carroll, who is heading the effort, says the county dispatchers will move into the space that currently houses the city dispatch center in mid-January as the two offices begin implementing the merger.

Carroll is working closely with Huntington County Sheriff Terry Stoffel, who has served on several previous committees that have attempted to combine the two staffs.

Stoffel says the merger has been a 20-year effort.

While the city and county dispatch centers share the city's dispatch office, the county dispatch office will be remodeled. The combined dispatches are expected to move into the newly remodeled office, and officially combine, in mid-June 2013, Carroll says.

Carroll and Stoffel cite several reasons for the move, not the least of which is the thorough coverage Stoffel says it will provide the city and county.

This combination of offices will offer Huntington "continuity of dispatch throughout the county," says Stoffel.

"All dispatchers will be cross-trained so no matter who is working, the entire county will receive the same service and information ... through and through."

The merger will also result in a savings for taxpayers. Carroll explains that although there will be no noticeable savings up front, in 2014 the merger will allow a savings of $250,000.

He and Stoffel explain that by combining offices, the city and county will not have to upgrade equipment in two separate dispatch centers. The newest technology required to run a dispatch center costs a quarter of a million dollars, and with the purchase of only one new piece of technology, taxpayers will be saved half the cost.

Also, Stoffel points out the importance of avoiding duplication of services.

"We have figured out how to do more with less," he adds.

Carroll says that no jobs will be lost with the merger. As employees have left their positions, the city and county have not replaced those employees to allow for the current dispatchers to keep their positions when the combination of offices becomes official in the summer of 2013.

As the dispatches begin to work together, Carroll says, "we will truly know all the information at one time."
The change, he says, will make the county a safer place.