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Dispatch’s space needs are beyond commissioners’ control


On Aug. 6, The Journal Gazette ran an editorial, “Facing the Inevitable,” concerning a possible relocation of the city and county’s 911 dispatch center which has for decades been housed in the basement of the Rousseau Centre (formerly the City-County Building).

Throughout the editorial, the blame for the perceived lack of space planning was placed solely on the shoulders of the Allen County commissioners. We believe this is an unfair characterization.

The city and county merged their separate 911 dispatch centers into one new organization called the Consolidated Communications Partnership in 2010. The partnership is a rebranding of the pre-existing city and county dispatchers and equipment. This did not result in the need for more space, since the merger did not increase the size and scope of 911 communications. In fact, the partnership CCP has successfully operated in its existing basement space ever since.

The potential need for more space in the 911 dispatch center is a result of two independent issues, neither of which is under the control of the commissioners. First, the partnership decided to upgrade its core radio infrastructure and issued a request for proposals in 2011. The commissioners were told by the CCP that installing the new 911 infrastructure would be difficult to do in the current space as both the new equipment and old would exist side by side until the end of 2013. The commissioners offered a proposal to create more space in the basement for the new 911 radio infrastructure but it was rejected. This offer remains on the table.

The second issue involves the future of 911. The commissioners have no day-to-day involvement in the partnership, nor did they in county 911 communications before the merger. There is a push, which the commissioners have helped lead, to work toward regionalizing emergency dispatch. Doing this would require an upgrade in the system which controls incoming 911 phone calls from the public.

If this upgrade takes place, the partnership would be able to dispatch emergency calls for all of northeast Indiana.

Looking toward the future, dispatching 911 calls for the region would require resources, which might result in the need for more space. If the CCP decides to go down this path, the current basement space may not be adequate.

The commissioners are not absolving themselves of responsibility for the space needs and possible relocation of 911, but there is more to it than was presented in the editorial.

Through its leadership, the commissioners helped create the partnership after decades of talk, helped get funding for the 911 radio infrastructure approved, and has helped facilitate conversations with outside groups and community partners should the 911 dispatch center move out of the Rousseau Centre.

Ultimately, the decision to stay put or move out rests with the partnership, just as it was intended.

Linda Bloom, Therese Brown and Nelson Peters are commissioners for Allen County. They wrote this for The Journal Gazette.