Upper Arlington will seek to consolidate its emergency dispatching services with the city of Columbus by Jan. 1, 2017.

Upper Arlington will seek to consolidate its emergency dispatching services with the city of Columbus by Jan. 1, 2017.

Upper Arlington City Council voted 6-0 Feb. 23, with Councilman John C. Adams absent, to authorize City Manager Ted Staton to enter into negotiations with Columbus for 911 dispatching services.

The move represents a significant step for Upper Arlington, which for several years has discussed merging its 911 dispatching services with other communities to cut costs and to enhance the local response to emergency calls from cellphones.

It also appears to have eliminated consideration of mergers with call centers in Dublin and Westerville, which previously had been studied.

Aside from comments from Councilman David DeCapua, who said the proposed merger with Columbus would better position the city to keep pace with rapidly changing technologies and allow it to rein in 911 dispatching costs, council approved the resolution to negotiate without comment.

However, council members and city staff members discussed the issue at length during a Feb. 17 conference session.

At that time, Assistant City Manager Dan Ralley said Upper Arlington wants to consolidate its 911 dispatching services because its current call center cannot receive calls directly from mobile telephone users, and because the city hopes to avoid the "full costs" of technology upgrades that will be required to operate a center.

Additionally, Ralley said the city hopes to achieve "long-term operational savings."

Ralley said estimates show it would cost Upper Arlington about $766,106 annually to join Dublin's call center and an additional $1 million to upgrade local technology to ensure quality radio communications with emergency responders inside buildings.

He said the annual costs to consolidate with Westerville are estimated at $820,960.

By using an existing radio system, Upper Arlington could merge its 911 dispatching services with Columbus at an annual cost of $400,000, Ralley said.

"Over the last couple of months, we've had increasingly intensive discussions with Columbus," he said, adding that a merger with Columbus would represent "significant, long-term cost savings" for Upper Arlington.

Ralley said Jan. 1, 2017 would be "the timeline for transitioning services."

According to Upper Arlington Police Chief Brian Quinn, the city spends $936,000 each year to operate its 911 dispatching center, and the center receives about 19,790 calls for service annually.

He said also a one-time technology investment of $395,000 would be needed to digitize the local call center operations.

"I think we have an obligation to consider the proposals so we can be viable in terms of a long-term solution," Quinn said. "I don't want to give up control ... but I think Columbus wants to improve their system (and) we have something to offer to improve their system."