St. Joseph County working to consolidate dispatch centers - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

St. Joseph County working to consolidate dispatch centers before deadline

Indiana has counties across the state consolidating their 911 dispatch centers. The state will require two dispatch centers per county starting in 2015. St. Joe County has been working towards this since last year. 

Though, the county is going a step further.  They have decided, instead of two, to consolidate their 5 dispatch centers, South Bend, Mishawaka, St. Joe County Sheriff, Clay Township and Walkerton, into just one 911 dispatch center. This will include police, fire, and emergency management services.

The new facility plans to break ground at Capital and Twelfth Street in Mishawaka on August 1. County Commissioner Andy Kostielney says originally, the estimated amount for the new state-of-the-art facility would cost $10 million to $12 million dollars.  Now, estimates put that number as high as $18 million.

Commissioner Kostielney believes the facility will not be done in time for the December 31 deadline. To combat that, the county plans to consolidate the current five dispatch centers into two for the time being, avoiding losing state funding.

Dispatchers have expressed their concern on social media about losing their jobs. Commissioner Kostielney says jobs aren't in jeopardy.  If anything, more positions will be needed.

To address the question of safety measures, FOX28 spoke with South Bend Fire Chief Steve Cox. "This is not going to harm safety measures.  If anything, it's going to improve them to be the best of the best," says Cox. He illustrated that in today's world, everyone is on their cell phones, and dispatch centers currently run into problems with connecting 911 calls to the appropriate dispatch center. "Instead of being transferred to a different building, you'll be transferred to the person probably sitting next to the person who received the call," says Cox.

Cox says smaller towns in the county, like Walkerton, still use a seven digit emergency number. Instead of residents in Walkerton having to know those seven digits, they can just call 911 and be transferred directly to Walkerton's dispatch.

"We work not only for the City of South Bend, but also for unincorporated parts of the county too. Sometimes those calls go to the wrong facility. In a situation where every second matters, this will avoid any mistakes," says Cox.

Commissioner Kostielney says they are going to fight hard to make the December 31 deadline, but if they don't, the county is going to try to get as close to the date as possible. If not, he says he hopes the state can give the county a grace period for trying.
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