Additional staffing needed to cover increasing workload
By Ed Runyan
The Trumbull County 911 dispatch center is asking county commissioners for $110,000 more in 2014 to pay for the hiring of two additional dispatchers.
The discussion took place Monday during the first day of county budget hearings, which conclude today.
The staffing is needed to cover the increasing workload at the county 911 center in Howland because of the addition of coverage for the city of Hubbard and Weathersfield Township in the past year.
Hubbard switched to the county 911 center a year ago. Weathersfield switched in July.
Since 2010, four departments have switched, including Liberty and Newton Falls.
The county 911 has added five workers since 2011 and increased its revenue $200,000 since 2011 from adding those communities.
Ernie Cook, chief deputy with the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office and county 911 director, said he has also recently talked with the police chiefs in Warren and Niles about their joining the county system as well.
Having the county dispatch calls for Warren police may have been unthinkable a few years ago, but the rapid change in telecommunications technology — especially cellphones and improvements in computer- aided dispatching equipment — makes it realistic, Cook said.
Warren and Niles are backup systems for the county 911 in the event that a disaster knocks out the county center, but other facilities also could serve as backups, such as the county 911 systems in Mahoning, Ashtabula or Portage counties, Cook said.
Eric Merkel, Warren police chief, said his department would be “foolish not to look into” a possible merger with the county 911 because of the potential for reducing costs.
He’s waiting for Cook to give him a written proposal.
“A big question is if [the county 911] would be able to handle the volume of calls” Warren gets, Merkel said.
Cook notes that the county 911 center has 10 dispatching stations at its Howland facility. Warren has two.
Cook estimates that the four departments that have switched to the county are saving around $1 million annually through the move.
Liberty, for example, spent more than $300,000 per year with its own dispatchers but now pays about $60,000 to $70,000, said Liberty Police Chief Rich Tisone.
“We had excellent dispatching when we had our own [dispatchers], and I don’t see any difference in the service we are receiving now,” Tisone said.
“It basically boils down to money.”