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City Relocating Its 911 Dispatching Services with the County

Park Ridge City Police Chief Frank Kaminski is recommending the city join the Cook County Sheriff’s Police 911 Center in unincorporated Maine Township due to rising costs associated with the city’s current dispatcher.

by Jennifer Johnson, Pioneer Press Newspapers, Suburban Chicago, Ill. / February 14, 2020

(TNS) — Six years after moving its 911 dispatching services from Des Plaines to River Forest, the Park Ridge Police Department is looking for a new center to answer emergency calls.

Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski is recommending the city join the Cook County Sheriff’s Police 911 Center in unincorporated Maine Township due to rising costs associated with the city’s current dispatcher. On Feb. 10, aldermen showed support for the request by directing the city manager to provide the required 12-month notice to the city’s current dispatch center of its plans to vacate.

“I think this seems to be a very solid choice for the city,” said Park Ridge Mayor Marty Maloney.

Since 2014, all 911 calls made within the city of Park Ridge have been answered by dispatchers at the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center in Forest Park. Police services are dispatched directly from the center, but any 911 calls requiring paramedics or the fire department are routed to a second dispatch center, the Regional Emergency Dispatch Center in Northbrook.

While Kaminski acknowledged that he was happy with the service the city has received from West Suburban, several issues have arisen, including a 36% increase in the annual cost of using the center, requiring the city to pay $466,096 over the next fiscal year, which begins May 1.

“That was a surprise to me,” Kaminski told the City Council on Feb. 10.

Additionally, the city is facing other expenses for the replacement of police officer radios (estimated to cost $421,850), a contribution of about $405,000 toward the replacement of the center’s Computer Aided Dispatch and records management systems, and as-yet unknown costs of relocation due to West Suburban’s lease ending in the next few years, Kaminski said.

As a result, the city is looking at an expense of close to $1.5 million over the next few years, not including its annual fee of using the center, the police chief said.

By moving to the Cook County Sheriff’s Police 911 Center, the city will spend roughly half what it currently pays annually to West Suburban, and there will be no additional cost to the city for police radio replacement or other equipment because the county takes care of those expenses, Kaminski told the council.

The city’s cost for the first year of a five-year agreement would be $262,823, compared to the $466,086 the city must pay West Suburban over the next year, he said.

“If you look at the numbers, they are way below anything we currently [pay],” Kaminski said. “There are increases of about 8% to 9% over the five-year term, but these prices are locked in for the next five years and that’s all we have to pay.”

The city’s expenses are in addition to annual proceeds from a 911 surcharge that is paid by phone customers.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Police 911 Center is located inside the Illinois State Police District Chicago headquarters — the former Maine North High School — at 9511 W. Harrison St. in unincorporated Maine Township.

If the city relocates its 911 dispatching here, calls for fire department assistance will still be rerouted to the RED Center in Northbrook and dispatched from there, Kaminski said.

Mark Bennett, director of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police 911 Center, said the center has a Smart 911 system in place that allows the public to enter personal information — and even photographs — into a database so that when they call 911, the dispatcher who answers the call has a variety of background information available to them.

This is currently not available to Park Ridge residents, the City Council was told.

Bennett said the center typically has 14 to 16 dispatchers working at any given time and is “equipped to deal with large-scale emergencies,” including taking 911 calls that are rerouted from other centers due to an unusually high call volume. This occurred following a January 2019 shooting at Orland Square Mall in Orland Park and when an SUV drove through Woodfield Mall in September 2019, Bennett said.

“The more people you have, the easier it is when you have a major incident,” he said.

There will be no cost to the city of Park Ridge to transition to the center, he added. When the city joined West Suburban, its start-up fee was $150,000.

Kaminski said he expects Cook County dispatchers will begin answering calls by March 2021.

When the city was looking to change dispatch centers in 2014 with the impending closure of its center in Des Plaines, Cook County’s 911 center was not available to join, Kaminski said.

“They weren’t in the position where they are now to be willing to take us in,” he said.

In addition to Park Ridge, West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center answers 911 calls for the police departments of Elmwood Park, Forest Park, Oak Park, and River Forest, and dispatches fire and EMS personnel for Elmwood Park, Forest Park, Oak Park, and River Forest, according to the center’s website.

Cook County’s 911 center answers calls for all unincorporated areas of the county, including Maine Township, as well as calls from Dixmoor, Ford Heights, Golf, Northlake, Phoenix, Robbins and Stone Park, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Additionally, the center dispatches for Cook County Forest Preserve Police and Metra Police, Bennett said.

jjohnson@chicagotribune.com

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