Safety vs. Savings
EFFINGHAM, Apr 17, 2012 (Effingham Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Illinois State Police officials are dismissing concerns about a proposed communications consolidation that will shut down one local dispatch center. However, one area legislator disagrees with the consolidation.
The proposal calls for consolidating 20 communication centers to four, eliminating the dispatch center at District 12 headquarters in Effingham.
ISP officials maintain no public safety will be compromised and citizens will continue to receive the same level of pubic safety service.
State Rep. David Reis questions whether public safety will be compromised, saying the move inhibits certain aspects of dispatching that allow local dispatchers to know the area.
"You can say turn left at Bob's barn, but the dispatcher may not know that Bob's barn burned down 20 years ago," he said.
Reis pointed to another scenario.
"They have to know when the Embarras River is out you got to go around," he said. "There's a certain personalization dispatchers get to know on the job to get law enforcement there in a timely manner."
ISP contends dispatching and communications capability will be improved with GPS technology that can pinpoint the location of the officer and direct the officer who is closest to the call.
Being a farmer, Reis knows there are areas where GPS service is not always reliable, especially in hill bottoms.
"Sometimes GPS doesn't work," he said.
Reis isn't convinced the estimated savings are enough to warrant the change. While up to 40 layoffs are planned -- a move that will reportedly save the state $1.2 million a year -- $15 million will be spent up front to retrofit the four remaining centers in Chicago, Springfield, DuQuoin and Sterling.
In addition, dispatchers not only handle an average of 107 calls daily at ISP center in Effingham, Reis noted, but they also handle walk-ins, a service that would need to be maintained.
"They would have to hire someone," he said. "I don't see the big savings."
Another duty of ISP communications centers is handling initial 911 calls for counties that do not yet have the enhanced 911 service, including Fayette and Lawrence counties. Those calls would be received in DuQuoin before being dispatched locally.
Reis said handling increased call volume during widespread emergencies like an ice storm also is an issue.
"They couldn't begin to handle that many calls in one dispatch center," he said.
Reis said ISP officials will go before a House Appropriations Committee this week, but admitted legislators have little recourse.
"They're doing this internally. We would have to do something with the budget to stop it," he said, adding legislators can limit the amount spent for specific sites.
But Reis said ISP officials are not waiting for legislative action.
"They're full steam ahead on this," he said.
Reis said legislators should have better direction in the next three weeks.
"Hopefully, we'll come to something that is beneficial for everyone," he said.
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