Should we regionalize our emergency dispatch?
Up for discussion at the November 20, 2012 City Council meeting will be agenda item #4: Consider Approval of Agreement, Regional Emergency Dispatch Services. With very few, if any, drawbacks, this is an idea whose time has come.
Since this idea first surfaced months ago, I have been skeptical about the benefits that transitioning to a regional emergency dispatch would provide. Sure, the cost savings could be demonstrated on paper, but what would we lose in the process? Would city residents really be as well served by a dispatch center outside of the city limits as it currently is? And what would this mean for the people who are doing the job today? Would we be relegating them to the unemployment line?
All of these concerns are addressed by the proposed agreement with the county. At minimum, sixteen of the current city-employed dispatchers (just about all of them who aren’t planning to retire) will be rehired by the county to staff the new regional dispatch, and the agreement is that those folks will at first be assigned to working on Sterling Heights-related calls. Eventually, they will be cross-trained to handle calls for all participating communities. It’s hard to imagine that moving the current dispatchers and most of their equipment to a different building a few miles away will negatively impact service for residents.
In addition, the people working for the local dispatch center will see some new opportunities open up in their careers. The county provides more opportunities for advancement than the city does, simply because it governs a larger area. As the report by the fire and police chiefs notes, their fringe benefits would be better as well.
My conclusion is that this agreement is a win-win situation for both the county and the residents of Sterling Heights. City Council should approve this measure.