(TNS) - Plans are underway to shift the management of the emergency communication center in Macon County, Ill., with the possibility that neighboring counties could also join the fold.
After months of negotiations, local governing bodies look ready to sign off on establishing the Central Illinois Regional Dispatch Center that would take over the operations of the call center from the city of Decatur. The call center dispatches the Decatur police and fire departments, Macon County Sheriff's Office and smaller police and fire departments within the county.
With the regional dispatch center, City Manager Tim Gleason said it opens the door for neighboring rural counties could join the center in the future.
“It’s an opportunity … with the rural counties to possibly bring them in with us and growing our communication center,” he said. “I think that opportunity is still out there, but this is the first step.”
The move would also change how much each governing body pays for emergency dispatching. The city currently covers $1.6 million of the total $2.5 million annual operating cost, officials said, while Macon County pays $300,000 and the Emergency Telephone System Board pays $600,000. The cost would shift under the plan based on the number of calls from each municipality.
For Macon County, that could mean paying an extra $350,000 a year, said board Chairman Jay Dunn. But the tradeoff is the county would have more say in the operations of the center.
“I think at the end of the day, this will be a fair way to do this,” he said.
Under the new plan, control of the communication center would shift to a three-person executive board and executive director. The seats would be held by the mayor of Decatur or a person she designates; the Macon County board chairman or a person he designates; and a third person chosen by the other two board members.
The Decatur City Council unanimously approved the plan at its June 5 meeting, but it still needs approval from the Macon County Board and the Emergency Telephone System Board.
The plan would not move the call center from its current location at the Law Enforcement Center in downtown Decatur, nor would it affect handling of emergency calls.
Roughly 20 employees at the center would no longer be employed by the city, but instead would be overseen by the newly created executive board. The move would not eliminate any positions at the center, something Gleason stressed was important to moving forward with the plan.
Those employees have been represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 and Local 268, and it would be up to them to decide whether they wish to remain members once the transition is complete.
Eddie Caumiant, regional director for AFSCME Council 31, said the union looks forward to working with the employees on any future negotiations.
The county is expected to vote on the measure at its July meeting. If approved by all three governing bodies, the dispatch center would be established at the start of next year.
©2017 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)
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