Tuesday evening, the County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the City which will merge their two dispatching centers into a single unit. Portage County will provide dispatching services for the City’s Police and Fire departments.
The combined dispatch will be run out of the newly expanded Communications Center at the Sheriff’s Office. The plan had been unanimously approved the night before by the Stevens Point Common Council, and before that by the City’s Police and Fire Commission.
The plan initially called for a transition at the start of 2014, but at the request of Mayor Andrew Halverson, the County was asked to move the date up to August 4. “This is the culmination of a two year long process,” said Portage County Sheriff John Charewicz. “A lot of hard work and long hours went into this plan, with multiple studies, endless meetings, and lots of internal staff communications, it was a real struggle at times. I’m pretty proud of the folks that helped put this together,” he added.
Under the plan, the County will offer positions to the City dispatchers who wish to become County employees. The Communications Center at the Sheriff’s Office currently consists of 10 telecommunications officers and 1 manager, and expanding the Center will mean a total of 19 employees. All emergency services dispatching, as well as other communications functions, across all of Portage County will be run out of one location.
When asked about the benefits of the unified communications center, Chief Deputy Daniel Kontos said, “It will improve public safety, improve responder safety, improve our responsiveness to calls for service, better manage our resources, better coordinate intelligence and information, and do so in a fiscally responsible fashion. It’s about time.” However, Kontos went on to add that, while the agreement was two years in the making, “August is right around the corner and there is a lot to do between now and then. Here’s where the real work starts.”