Monday, June 26, 2017
By Jordyn Grzelewski
Today marks a major step toward regionalizing Mahoning County’s 911 services.
The county’s dispatch center will shutter today, the final phase in a 911 reorganization plan that has been in the works for many months. The 911 dispatching previously done at the downtown location now will be handled by dispatchers in Boardman and Austintown.
“It’s going to be a more efficient system, and I think it’s a positive step toward regionalization in our area that’s going to result in saving the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said county Sheriff Jerry Greene. Greene said the initial savings to Mahoning County will be about $240,000 per year and eventually will total about $500,000 a year.
Beginning today, the following police agencies’ calls will go through Boardman: Lowellville, Coitsville, New Middletown, Washingtonville and Goshen (which serves Goshen, Green and Beloit). In addition to Boardman police and fire, Boardman previously began dispatching for the county hazardous material response agency, county Emergency Management Agency, county coroner, Poland village police, Poland Township police and Mill Creek MetroParks police.
Austintown already has begun dispatching for Jackson Township and the county dog warden, and today will begin dispatching for Milton Township, Craig Beach Village and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office (which is the primary 911 answering service for Ellsworth, Canfield Township and Berlin Center).
Boardman Police Chief Jack Nichols explained how the reorganization came to be.
“The county had previously operated a very antiquated radio system that was badly in need of replacement. Boardman and Austintown put in a system that we shared,” he said. “Over the last year and a half, the county became a member of the Council of Governments and bought in to upgrade to what we had put up.”
The final upgrades were completed last week.
Boardman and Austintown have been in the process of adding the agencies that previously went through the county answering point.
“Their phones all rang at the 911 center in downtown Youngstown,” said Nichols. “Now their phones will ring at Boardman or Austintown. ... [Today], that transition is going to be made.”
Dispatchers from the county center will move to positions in Boardman or Austintown and will be employed by those townships.
The systems located in Boardman and Austintown are effectively joined together, so that if one center were to experience problems, calls would be routed through the other.
In addition to the dispatch system, many agencies in the county will join a new high-tech radio system that Boardman and Austintown have been using for a few years. Though agencies such as Youngstown police do not plan to join the dispatch system at this time, they will join the radio system.
The reorganization was prompted in part by a new state law that will take effect next year. That law stipulates that revenue from the 911 fee that the state collects from cellphone users can’t go to more than three 911 answering points per county. This transition reduces Mahoning County’s 911 answering points from nine to eight. County officials have said that other agencies not currently included in the plan likely will join in the future.
“We have a leg up on that,” said Nichols. “We’re ready for the new changes to take effect.”
“It’s been a lot of work,” he added. “It’s a big deal.”