By the end of the year, Grove City will be providing dispatching services for two more fire departments.

The city has reached three-year agreements with the Prairie Township and Scioto Township departments.

The agreement with Scioto Township will begin later this summer. Scioto Township will pay the city $28,266 annually.

Grove City is expected to begin providing dispatching service for Prairie Township on Dec. 1, at an annual cost of $168,540.

Grove City Council voted to approve the agreement with Scioto Township at its June 19 meeting.

It also heard first reading of the agreement with Prairie Township. That agreement is expected to be approved at city council's next meeting July 3.

In both cases, the township fire departments are contracting with Grove City because the city's communications center has the capacity to handle the next generation 911 technology.

That technology, expected to be in place by the end of the year, will allow residents to text emergency calls to 911 using their cell phones.

Grove City currently handles dispatching for its police department and the Jackson and Pleasant township fire departments.

In 2016, the city's communication technicians handled 82,405 calls, of which about 40,154 were considered as priority or emergency calls, said Bill Vedra, deputy city administrator and safety director.

About 9,570 calls were from Jackson Township and 1,224 were from Pleasant Township, he said.

Last year, Prairie Township's fire department was dispatched on about 4,000 EMS calls and a little more than 2,000 fire runs.

"We will likely be adding another dispatcher because of the volume of calls from Prairie Township," Vedra said.

Grove City currently has 12 communication technicians, he said.

"Our staffing is based on the volume of calls," Vedra said. "We have three dispatchers on duty during peak times and never fewer than two."

Calls have been and will continue to be handled on a priority basis, no matter where they originate, he said.

"A fire run in one community will get priority over a non-emergency call in another jurisdiction," Vedra said.

When the new agreements are in place, the city will receive about $432,861 in total payments from the four fire departments for dispatching services, he said.

Jackson Township currently pays $211,995 per year and Pleasant Township pays $24,060.

"The payments go into our general fund," Vedra said.

Grove City's budget for its communications information center totals $1,687,674 this year, he said.

The additional dispatching responsibilities are not expected to require additional equipment or technology, Vedra said.

Grove City participates in one of the three county systems that are able to handle next generation 911 technology, he said.

The city of Columbus shares the technology with Grove City, Franklin County and Worthington.

Other systems with the technology are the Northwest Regional Emergency Communications Center in Dublin and the Metropolitan Emergency Communications Consortium in Gahanna.

"We looked at the possibility of going with one of the other systems, but it just makes sense to go with Grove City," Prairie Township Administrator Tracy Hatmaker said.

"We just don't have the software and hardware needed for the next generation 911 system," he said.

"We'll now be able to have the 911 information entered into Grove City's CAD (computer-aided dispatch) system. That's going to allow emergency runs to be assigned and dispatched more quickly and efficiently."

Scioto Township has been partnering with the Pickaway County Sheriff's Office for its dispatching, Fire Chief Porter Welch said.

"There really isn't a cost savings for us going with Grove City," he said.

"The No. 1 reason we decided to change to Grove City is the higher level of service our residents will be receiving when they call 911. Their dispatchers have a higher level of training than the sheriff's office."

Grove City offers access to a Smart 911 system, a smartphone app that allows people to enter information they want dispatchers to have in case of emergency.

"It gives the dispatchers instant access to knowing if you have children or pets, whether you have an alarm system or lock box, or if someone who lives in your house has a chronic condition or disability," Welch said.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman