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posted: 1/4/2013 12:01 AM

Des Plaines moves to disband joint 911 dispatch center

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The Des Plaines public works committee Thursday night agreed to recommend to the city council the establishment of a Des Plaines dispatch center and emergency telephone system board to handle 911 calls for Des Plaines and Park Ridge.

The move would require a change in the city code, which will be on the council's agenda for Monday night.

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It's the first step toward the dissolution of the North Suburban Emergency Communications Center, which provides 911 dispatch services for Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Niles and Morton Grove, and the disbanding of the Joint Emergency Telephone System (JETS) Board, which governs the current 911 center located in Des Plaines.

The 24-hour center, which has been in operation for 20 years, has been handling emergency police and fire calls for Des Plaines and Park Ridge, and police calls for Niles and Morton Grove since 2004.

Morton Grove and Niles already have opted to leave the cooperative due to cost concerns and join with Glenview's dispatch center. Des Plaines and Park Ridge considered joining with Northwest Central Dispatch System but that agency's governing board declined their request for a feasibility study due to its own constraints.

The only remaining option is for Des Plaines to operate its own dispatch center out of City Hall with fewer employees. Park Ridge would contract with Des Plaines to handle its 911 police and fire dispatch calls, Des Plaines Fire Chief Alan Wax said.

Des Plaines officials would then re-evaluate the efficiency of the center in two years, Wax said.

The current 911 center's members include the four city/village managers, four police chiefs and two fire chiefs of the respective partner communities. Each member municipality, based on its call load, was responsible for a portion of the overall $5.8 million budget to operate the center in 2012. Its 47 employees included 30 dispatchers, four managers, six supervisors, two information technology staff members and an administrative assistant.

Within the last year, some vacancies have not been filled and the dispatch center staff has been reconfigured. The overall budget for the center also has been reduced to slightly more than $4 million for 2013.

However, the process of disbanding the North Suburban Emergency Communications Center could take months.

The Illinois Commerce Commission must review and approve individual petitions to dissolve the JETS board, establish separate emergency telephone system boards for the four communities, and grant permission for Morton Grove and Niles to contract with Glenview, for Des Plaines to operate its own 911 system and dispatch center, and for Park Ridge to contract with Des Plaines for dispatching services.

"Unless it all gets approved, none of it gets approved and it's not going to work," Wax said. "It's going to all happen at the same time once the approvals are in."

Des Plaines would retain only 26 employees for its 911 center, Wax said.

The four communities would still have to work out the costs of disbanding, such as paying unemployment benefits for laid off workers.

If approved, the Des Plaines 911 center would be governed by a five-member board consisting of the city manager, finance director, police and fire chiefs, and a citizen member appointed by the mayor with the city council's consent, Wax said.

The cost of upgrading the antiquated dispatch system would have to be deferred until officials know whether the new 911 center will continue beyond the proposed two years. The center needs a new computer-aided dispatch system, which would allow for the transmission of text, video, and pictures. The estimated cost is roughly $2 million.

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