Upper Arlington News

City still exploring 911 consolidation possibilities

By

City Manager Ted Staton said this week that Upper Arlington continues to eye options for the possible consolidation of its emergency services dispatch operations.

The cities of Columbus, Dublin and Westerville appear to be possible partners, but Upper Arlington still isn't ready to determine how or if it will merge its emergency dispatch operations with others.

Staton provided a 911 consolidation update to Upper Arlington City Council at its meeting Monday, March 3.

At his request, city officials have been exploring the possible consolidation of the 911 dispatch center with other central Ohio communities since August 2012.

City officials want to see if Upper Arlington can save money through a shared-services merger, while maintaining or improving emergency responses. They are hopeful response times could be improved, particularly with respect to 911 calls from mobile telephone users.

Currently, 911 calls from cellphone users in Upper Arlington go to call centers in Columbus, Dublin or Westerville because Upper Arlington -- and all but five central Ohio communities -- don't have the technology needed to receive 911 calls from mobile phones.

"That results in what we estimate conservatively to be a 30- to 40-second delay," Staton said.

In addition to taking mobile calls, Staton said the city is interested in merging with a center which has the ability to deal with both police and fire services. He said the Columbus, Dublin and Westerville centers all do.

Staton said Upper Arlington would incur start-up costs as a result of any merger, as well as annual operational costs. However, at this point, potential costs and eventual savings haven't been calculated, he said.

"There are start-up costs, depending on the radio system," he said. "There will be annual costs with all of these options.

"We expect to get an estimate from Dublin within the next three weeks. They're still considering whether or not they want to be an aggregator server."

A more-detailed cost and cost-savings analysis is expected to come in after Ebensburg, Pa.-based L.R. Kimball completes a study within the next few months.

Last October, council approved spending up to $21,000 for the Kimball study after members indicated they were disappointed by the results of a study Kimball had concluded a month earlier.

The first study cost $90,000, but was funded with a $51,316 state grant and $10,000 from Upper Arlington, Dublin, Hilliard and Worthington, respectively. It was commissioned to help the communities decide if a 911 dispatch merger involving all of them would cut costs and improve emergency-response services.

The earlier study said the four cities could save approximately $1.2 million annually by merging with Dublin's 911 dispatch center, but it failed to say how much each community would save.

In the meantime, the city of Dublin entered into an agreement to take over emergency-services dispatching for Hilliard and Norwich Township, which provides fire and emergency-medical service to Hilliard.

Staton indicated Monday that Upper Arlington has eliminated a number of potential partners for the 911 merger because of other communities' unwillingness to consolidate, or because they aren't good fits for the range of services Upper Arlington seeks.

"We have narrowed the field," he said. "We're going to start to plug in these numbers over the next couple of months.

"We'll have a better sense of whether or not there will be annual operations savings or to what extent the annual operations savings will be within the next few months."

Comments