Who you gonna call? Towns mull 911 service switch
Mark Dubley looks up from his station at the 911 Emergency Communications Center in Des Plaines. A board representing municipalities that use the center has commissioned a study of relocating dispatching services. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 31, 2012 8:20AM
DES PLAINES — When 911 is dialed in an emergency, callers know there will be someone to help them on the other end of the line.
But for residents in Park Ridge, Niles and Des Plaines, the community from which that first responder will actually be taking calls in the future remains unknown.
The Joint Emergency Telephone System Board, an intergovernmental organization representing those three communities, as well as Morton Grove, decided this month to request a feasibility study of moving dispatching services from the North Suburban Emergency Communication Center in Des Plaines to the Northwest Central Dispatch System in Arlington Heights. The decision came following word that the Morton Grove Police Department is looking to leave the group and pursue emergency-dispatch services from the Glenview Public Safety Dispatch Center.
According to Park Ridge Chief Mike Zywanski the Northwest Central Board is expected to vote in September on the feasibility-study request. If accepted the study will take three to four months to complete, he added.
One of the components the study will examine is the cost to each municipality for services.
The Des Plaines 911 center now dispatches calls for Park Ridge and Des Plaines police, and Fire and Morton Grove and Niles police. Fire-related calls from Niles, Morton Grove and unincorporated Maine Township are transferred to the Regional Emergency Dispatch, or R.E.D Center.
The Northwest Central Dispatch System handles 911 calls for 16 northwest-suburban police and fire departments.
The decision to explore the possibility of relocation was prompted by financial concerns, the Des Plaines dispatch center looking at leaving its headquarters at Des Plaines City Hall and the interest of the village of Morton Grove to leave the group, Park Ridge Police Frank Kaminski told the Park Ridge City Council.
“All those things together has now created some different dynamics for us as to how we’re going to handle our 911 services in the future,” Kaminski said.
Alan Wax, chief of the Des Plaines Fire Department and chairman of the Joint Emergency Telephone System Board, said the feasibility study is “a matter of determining options” for the municipalities that now use the Des Plaines 911 center.
“We’re always looking for ways to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible,” Wax said.
He added that there are no immediate plans for the center to move out of Des Plaines City Hall, though the city has expressed a need for the space during the past few years.
Sherill Ornberg, executive director of the North Suburban Emergency Communication Center in Des Plaines, could not be reached for comment.
Morton Grove Village Administrator Ryan Horne said the village has been a member of the Des Plaines 911 center for 10 years, but cost savings and modernized operations are potential benefits to an agreement with the village of Glenview.
“It worked very well, but unfortunately there’s just some obstacles and limitations we weren’t able to overcome,” Horne said. “It’s not that we had bad service or difficult relationships with anyone.”
The Illinois Commerce Commission must still approve the transition, which Horne hopes could take place by Jan. 1. Citizens will never be without 911 service if the transition occurs, he added.
Horne said a conservative estimate has Morton Grove saving about $300,000 annually by joining the Glenview Public Safety Dispatch Center. Both Horne and Kaminski said their communities pay just more than $1 million annually for dispatching through the Des Plaines 911 center.
In recent months the member municipalities of the North Suburban Emergency Communication Center began exploring “whether the current operation is cost-effective,” Kaminski reported.
On Aug. 13, Park Ridge 6th Ward Alderman Marty Maloney asked if there was a possibility of Park Ridge dispatching its own 911 calls in the near future.
“I won’t say that’s not a possibility if the others are going to do other things,” Kaminski said. “I just have to wait and see.”
He added: “This is definitely on the top burner and definitely something we have to devote considerable time and energy to. We have to make some decisions.”