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updated: 1/10/2013 4:53 PM

Des Plaines moves to set up its own 911 system

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The Des Plaines City Council took a step this week in the complicated process of disbanding the North Suburban Emergency Communications System, which serves four towns. Aldermen Monday approved the city's setting up its own emergency telephone system board.

The system handles emergency police and fire calls for Des Plaines and Park Ridge, and police calls for Niles and Morton Grove.

Morton Grove and Niles want to leave because it would be cheaper for them to join with Glenview's dispatch center. Des Plaines, meanwhile, is working toward operating its own system for a two-year trial period with Park Ridge as a client, said Fire Chief Alan Wax.

The Illinois Commerce Commission must review and approve individual petitions to dissolve the Joint Emergency Telephone System Board, which governs the current 911 center located in Des Plaines. The ICC also must review and approve plans to establish separate emergency telephone system boards for the four communities. And it must grant permission for Morton Grove and Niles to contract with Glenview, and 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."

Last year, the center had a budget of $5.8 million for 47 employees, but it has been cutting costs and this year has a budget of about $4 million. The four towns contribute to costs based on their share of the call load.

If the ICC approves the split, Des Plaines would retain 26 employees, Wax said. The partners still have to work out how to share the costs of disbanding, such as unemployment benefits.

If Des Plaines decides to operate its own center for more than two years, it will need a new computer-aided dispatch system, which would allow for the transmission of text, video, and pictures, and would cost roughly $2 million, Wax said.

An alternative would be to join the Northwest Central Dispatch System. That agency wasn't interested in a merger now because it is working to resolve problems of its own, officials said.

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