(TNS) - Macon County has become the latest municipality to join the new Central Illinois Regional Dispatch Center.
The county board voted unanimously Thursday night to enter an agreement with the center, which will handle the managing, staffing and equipment at the call center in the Macon County Law Enforcement Center. With the agreement, the county joins Decatur and Mount Zion, which also have agreed to join.
Under the new plan, control of the center would be shifted to a three-person executive board and executive director. One seat on the board would be held by the mayor of Decatur or a designee and another would be held by the chair of the Macon County board or an appointee. The third person would be chosen by the other two board members.
“With this, we’re all going to have a say in the direction of the center,” said Sheriff Thomas Schneider after Thursday’s meeting.
Previously, the city of Decatur has owned and operated the lone call center in the county, providing dispatching services to its own agencies as well as the Macon County Sheriff's Office and smaller police and fire departments.
While he emphasized he has never had any problems with the set-up in the past, Schneider said the new center will prevent any questions of services being provided in an unfair manner.
“What they’re looking at now, is that everyone is going to be a shared operator of this,” he said. “There won’t be a issue of who owns it, because everybody is going to own it.”
The dispatch center costs $2.5 million a year to operate. Previously, the arrangement called for the city covering $1.6 million, Macon County covering $300,000, and and the Emergency Telephone System Board covering $600,000. Now, the cost will shift under the plan based on use.
Macon County Chairman Jay Dunn has previously said the county’s share for the center will increase from $300,000 to about $650,000, though Schneider said Thursday that the cost will likely be an increase of around $150,000. That money will be paid for through the sheriff’s department.
“We knew it was inevitable ... that we’d be paying more down the road,” Schneider said. “But we’re at the point now where we know we need to pay our fair share, and we’re willing to be a team player to provide the best service for Macon County.”
The plan would not move the call center from its current location at the Law Enforcement Center in downtown Decatur, nor would it affect the roughly 20 employees who work there.
There is no timeline for when the center will be fully in place, and sheriff Lt. Jonathan Butts said they are still in a transition as other local municipalities and local emergency services get on board.
“The state has been pushing for consolidating, and this is just a way of doing that,” he said. “I think there has been a lot of thought put into it, and I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s time to look at this center as a great tool for the future of first responders in Macon County.”
Officials have touched on the future possibility of other neighboring counties to join the fold, but Butts said those plans are “far into the future.”
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