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posted: 8/3/2012 6:16 PM

Switch of fire and police calls from Libetyville to Vernon Hills complete

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  • Vernon Hills Police dispatcher Sarah Silliman handles calls for the Libertyville Police Department. Vernon Hills began handling calls for Libertyville this week.

      Vernon Hills Police dispatcher Sarah Silliman handles calls for the Libertyville Police Department. Vernon Hills began handling calls for Libertyville this week.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer


The calls were coming more slowly than normal but when dispatchers in Vernon Hills fielded one for a house fire in Libertyville, it was handled without a hitch, officials said.

"The guys on the street don't notice the difference," said Libertyville Fire Chief Rich Carani. "They're answering them (calls for service) just as they would if they were sitting in Libertyville."

The new arrangement, which began in a low-key manner Wednesday morning, brought a years-long issue full circle. Dispatchers in a joint center operated by Vernon Hills police and the Countryside Fire Protection District at the police headquarters now handle all emergency and nonemergency calls from Libertyville.

The Libertyville village board after years of study and sometimes emotional comments from employees, in March agreed to consolidate services at the joint center as a cost-saving measure.

Libertyville, which was facing equipment replacement at its longtime center, will save more than $1.2 million in operating and other costs over the five-year contract.

"It was a long time coming," said Libertyville Police Chief Clint Herdegen. "It gave us a chance to ensure we have adequate staffing in place and highly trained individuals."

Vernon Hills Police Chief Mark Fleischhauer said the incremental switch of calls, with 911 emergency the last to transfer, went smoothly.

"We're not breaking new ground here. It's one of those things that really makes sense. Communities are always trying to do more with less," he said of the combined dispatch operation.

He described the eventual contract as being a "great collaborative effort" between agencies but realized it was a tough issue for Libertyville.

"We understand the heartburn they had to endure to make the decision. It meant some people would be without a job and nobody wants to be responsible," he said.

Of the last six telecommunicators that had worked at Libertyville, three were hired by Vernon Hills. A fourth person was hired by Libertyville police to work in the records section. The last two left under terms of a shut down agreement.

Fleischhauer said the center was built with the abillity to "add new partners" but they were not actively "courting" any other communities.

All involved said Libertyville callers for emergency or nonemergency police and fire services won't notice any difference from the service they have had for years.

"All they care about is that someone is there to answer the call and send help when it's needed," Fleischhauer said.

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