The communications merger also could include nonemergency services.
By DEBORA SHAULIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Beginning Friday, Beloit residents who dial 911 will be routed to Mahoning County's communications center instead of a Sebring police dispatcher.
The switch should have little effect on residents in their time of need, but it's a big deal to officials who want a proposed city-county 911 merger to be completed.
"The fact that we're going to help Beloit shows that consolidation of services is something we're very capable of handling," county Commissioner John McNally IV said. "If we can handle it for a small town that's 35 miles away, we can handle it for Boardman, Austintown, Canfield" and Youngstown.
Consolidation of communications doesn't change communities' identities, because "communications has no identity," says Walter Duzzny, the county's director of emergency management and communications. "When we get a 911 call from your house, you don't care what the fire or police vehicle says."
"It's not a takeover of police operations, just consolidation of 911 operations," McNally said.
The county call center has access to more services in the event of a major emergency, Duzzny added.
How this works
Goshen Township police provide protection in Beloit. The county's communication center has been taking Goshen police calls since the police department's inception, so it was easy to add Beloit's 911 calls, Duzzny said.
"If it's a police issue, we'll dispatch a police car," he said. If a caller needs firefighters or an ambulance, he will be transferred with the press of a button to the vendor that already handles those calls. Beloit's fire department is volunteer, and that company can alert firefighters via pager.
That is another service Mahoning County communications might offer down the road, Duzzny said.
Mahoning County answers police calls for 13 agencies, but no fire departments. Duzzny believes that will change as a 911 merger committee continues its work.
Last month, county commissioners authorized the committee to use county resources to create and advertise a request for proposals from consultants to help with the merger. The consultant will address issues of equipment, funding, personnel and future growth, if other communities want to join later. Austintown, Boardman and Canfield are among communities that handle their own communications.
Committee at work
The request for proposals has been written and is being reviewed by the committee chairman, Atty. David C. Comstock Jr., Commissioner John McNally IV said Wednesday. Comstock also is chief of Western Reserve Fire District, which serves Poland Village and Township.
The committee was formed last May, and McNally would like to see it move more quickly. Without setting deadlines, McNally said he hopes Comstock will return the RFP to the county soon so it can be turned over to Youngstown officials, who have expressed interest in the merger. McNally is ready to advertise the RFP and get responses, he said.
Merger 911 operations is a good starting point "if we're ever going to consolidate any type of service," McNally said. "It ought to happen and it should happen."
Duzzny also believes the 911 merger will address communications of nonemergency services, including road departments, the county dog warden and the coroner's office. There is a "duplication of radio systems in the county," he said.