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posted: 4/18/2012 2:14 PM

Antioch to close dispatch center, lay off 12 employees to because of budget shortfall

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The Antioch 9-1-1 dispatch center will shut its doors in 21 days, eliminating the jobs of 12 employees and forcing other agencies to find new emergency dispatch services.

Police Chief Craig Somerville said the decision was one of the toughest things he's had to do as chief.

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Somerville said budgetary shortfalls and competition from nearby dispatch agencies make closing the center necessary.

"It's heart breaking," he said of the layoffs. "There's severance packages to help them get through this, but it's a tough call. They are the best in the business and this move has nothing to do with them or their service to Antioch."

Antioch's center provides emergency dispatch services for Antioch Fire Protection District and Lindenhurst Police.

Antioch will join CenCom E911 Public Safety Communication Center in Round Lake Beach. CenCom currently dispatches for Round Lake, Round Lake Beach, Hainesville, Lake County and many others.

Somerville said Lindenhurst Police are expected to meet with other dispatch centers to work out their own future needs.

"That's up to them," he said. "I'm not sure what they have planned."

Lindenhurst Police were not available for comment Wednesday about the switch.

The Antioch Fire Protection District will also join CenCom, fire chief John Nixon said.

The police and fire protection district are kind of "joined at the hip" when it comes to public safety, Nixon said, and making the change uniform is best for Antioch residents.

"The sad thing is that, during these tough economic times, financial adjustments need to be made," he said. "However, the service residents see should continue at its excellent level."

Somerville said it costs about $750,000 annually to operate the Antioch dispatch center, but only $180,000 in revenue is brought in from Lindenhurst and the Antioch fire district.

The village has made up the difference through its general fund, he said, but the economy has forced the village to cut costs.

"In this economy, everyone has been looking at reducing costs and combining services," Somerville said. "CenCom was one of the first dispatching groups out there that could take in additional towns. It's just a good fit for us."

He added the loss of police and fire agencies to other dispatching centers has taken its toll on Antioch.

For example, Lake Villa Police Department pulled out of Antioch and signed on with FoxComm in Fox Lake for dispatching needs about one year ago.

It will take about 21 days for Antioch to make the switch, which will save the village about $200,000 annually, he added.

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