Wheeling to field 911 calls from Des Plaines
Starting next year, anyone who calls 911 for police in Des Plaines will get their call answered by someone in Wheeling -- the result of a five-year contract approved by Des Plaines' city council Monday.
The move comes as Des Plaines readies to close its aging dispatch center on the second floor of city hall.
Des Plaines officials estimate they'll save $4.1 million over the course of the five-year agreement by contracting with the village of Wheeling, which operates a dispatch center at its police department headquarters.
Des Plaines has dispatched its own police and fire calls -- and handled dispatching for other local municipalities -- for some 20 years. But outdated equipment and computer systems have spurred officials to decommission the city's emergency communications center.
Police Chief Bill Kushner said major expenditures would be needed to modernize the facility, which has an increasingly failure-prone records management system that doesn't interface consistently with the computer-aided dispatch system. There are issues with the dispatch system's software, the radio system itself and the dispatch consoles, he said.
Des Plaines aldermen voted 5-1 Monday night to approve the contract with Wheeling. Fourth Ward Alderman Dick Sayad was the lone vote in opposition, saying aldermen should have been informed about problems with the current facility long ago.
The dispatch center, at one time called the North Suburban Emergency Communications Center, previously handled all police and fire emergency calls for Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Niles and Morton Grove. Niles and Morton Grove left in 2012 after signing contracts for dispatching services with Glenview.
As soon as this August, Des Plaines and Park Ridge will have their fire dispatch at the Regional Emergency Dispatch Center in Northbrook. Park Ridge police calls will be answered at the West Suburban Communications Center in River Forest.
Kushner said anyone who calls 911 in Des Plaines -- whether for a police or fire emergency -- will first talk to a dispatcher in Wheeling. If the emergency is related to fire, the Wheeling-based dispatcher will stay on the line while the call is transferred to the RED Center in Northbrook.
Des Plaines officials say they talked with other agencies besides Wheeling. Officials from Northwest Central Dispatch in Arlington Heights and the privately held Norcomm in Leyden Township indicated Des Plaines' call volume would be too high. Rosemont Public Safety officials were not interested. Glenview Public Safety offered attractive first-year pricing, with substantial price increases in later years, Kushner said.
Des Plaines officials estimate the city's share of operational and capital costs at the Wheeling dispatch center will be $12.1 million over the course of the five-year agreement -- $4.1 million less than if police dispatching were to remain in Des Plaines.
Those costs include severance payouts to current employees, though Wheeling officials have said they plan to hire 11 dispatchers to handle Des Plaines calls, and the current Des Plaines dispatchers would get preference in hiring.
There are 22 employees at the Des Plaines facility.
The switch to the new center is targeted for Jan. 1.