After months of negotiations and years of discussion, the Daviess County commissioners joined with the city of Washington to combine the county and city dispatch centers into a single operation. The final approval was given by the commissioners at their meeting Tuesday morning.
“This has been a long journey,” said Daviess County Commissioner Nathan Gabhart. “I started working on this in 2015. There are a lot of other people who have been involved in talks for even longer.”
Because the city represents two-thirds of the population involved in the dispatch, the county will carry two-thirds of the funding with the city paying for one-third.
The initial lay-out will be more than $200,000 in E-911 funds, plus donations from the city and the county.
“Our amount will be about what we normally spend on dispatch services through the sheriff’s department,” said Gabhart.
The oversight for the new central dispatch will include a Finance Board (consisting of a county commissioner, county councilman, and the mayor of Washington), an operations board (mayor, city police chief and city fire chief, along with the Daviess County Emergency Services director, the sheriff, head of the ambulance service and a representative of the county’s volunteer fire chiefs’ association), and a transitions team (including dispatchers and police and fire officials).
“The transition team is already working to make this change as seamless as possible,” said Gabhart. “We need to get the operations board organized. They will be selecting the manager for central dispatch. That will be an important person making decisions as we get things together and central dispatch moves to being its own department.”
One of the sticking points over the years has been the future of the dispatchers for both the city and county.
“No one should be fearful of their job,” said Gabhart.
“This is something that only makes sense,” said President of the Daviess County Commissioners Michael Taylor. “It just makes sense to have people who are doing the same thing, to do it together in the same place.”
Officials are hopeful that in the long run they will be able to save some money with a combined dispatch. The system relies on computers and programs, as well as phone lines. By putting the city and county together, many of those costs will be consolidated.
But officials say the decision is beyond money and more importantly revolves around safety and response time, especially in the city. While landline 911 calls in the city go directly to the Washington dispatch center, those that are made from cellphones go first to the Daviess County dispatch, who then transfers the call to a Washington dispatcher. The method is both clumsy and burns valuable time.
“This is going to benefit the people of Washington right away,” said Gabhart. “Every dispatch should happen quicker and when you are saving seconds and minutes in emergencies that will help make Washington a safer community.”
Work has already begun toward getting the new central dispatch in place in the Daviess County Security Center in hopes of having it up and running before the end of the year.
“We have already ordered new furniture for the central dispatch area,” said Gabhart. “With so much to get done before the end of the year we couldn’t wait around any longer.”
Officials say there are going to be a lot of meetings and decisions to make as the new agency gears up.
“There has been a lot of work put into this and there is a lot of work to do,” said Commissioner Ron Arnold. “There has been a lot of give and take and there will be more. I believe in the end it will be well worth it.”
In other business, the commissioners approved adding an online human resource service from Steele Benefits at an annual cost of $15,900.
“This should take all of our human resources information for county employees and put it in a single data base,” said Taylor. “While it looks like we are spending money, there really should be a savings in the long run as we take a lot of paperwork out of the auditor’s office.”
The commissioners also signed a contract with Lochmueller Group to provide engineering services to the county.
“We had hoped to add a county engineer, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen,” said Taylor. “So, we will contract out those services. The engineer will be used for specific projects.”
The Daviess County Highway Department it is moving forward on a number of projects. Highway Supervisor Chris Winkler reported the electricians are working on the asphalt plant and it should be up and running in a couple of weeks. He also reported that engineering and design on the bridge over the railroad tracks in Montgomery is moving ahead. The project is expected to begin in the summer of 2022.