Libertyville moves forward with dispatch consolidation
Negotiations to transfer emergency dispatch operations from Libertyville to Vernon Hills will continue with a switch possible next spring.
The Libertyville village board last week agreed with recommendations from its police and fire committee, and authorized staff to proceed with discussions that could lead to a five-year agreement effective May 1.
That decision came with a message to the six current dispatchers that Vernon Hills should strongly consider Libertyville staff for the jobs. Four new dispatchers will be needed for the expanded service, and Libertyville is proposing creating two new records positions as part of any consolidation.
"This is not something that we considered lightly. All of us know what it's like to have your jobs in a tenuous situation," said Trustee Donna Johnson, one of three committee members.
Mayor Terry Weppler told several dispatchers and supporters who attended the village board meeting the consideration of moving dispatch service was strictly financial.
"This has absolutely nothing to do with our quality of dispatch. It has to do with dollars and cents," he said. "Our hope is no one loses their job through this consolidation."
In a report to the village board, Village Administrator Kevin Bowens said the current operation is "not sustainable" because of declining revenue from sources that fund the dispatch operation, coupled with the need for more manpower and upgraded equipment.
Moving the dispatch center from police headquarters to a new facility operated jointly by the Vernon Hills police department and Countryside Fire Protection District would save Libertyville an estimated $1.7 million over five years, according to information presented to the committee.
That total includes $400,000 Libertyville would not spend in needed equipment improvements over the next few years. The Vernon Hills system also would provide immediate upgrades, according to the proposal.
Dispatcher Toni Brown, who has worked in Libertyville for 14 years, told the village board it should consider updating its own center and bringing in other communities.
Weppler said it was "very expensive to operate a dispatch center for a single community", and that Vernon Hills "has a new facility with all the bells and whistles right now."
Because of declining revenue, Libertyville for several years has been looking at ways to reorganize, privatize, eliminate or consolidate various village operations. In March 2010, village leaders considered but opted not to join the CenCom dispatch center in Round Lake.
Libertyville dispatchers last April joined the police union, and the impact of a potential agreement with Vernon Hills would have to be negotiated and reviewed by the Libertyville village board.
Consideration of Libertyville dispatchers for the new positions is expected to be among the issues to be discussed with Vernon Hills when talks regarding the agreement resume later this week.
Meanwhile, dispatchers like Brown and Marabeth Loomis, who will have worked in Libertyville for 35 years in February, are worried.
"It's just up in the air here," Loomis said Monday. "It's causing a lot of stress. It's scary not knowing what's going to happen."