The head of a group formed in 2015 to protest the outsourcing of Upper Arlington's 911 dispatching service said Monday it no longer opposes the plan.
"Our goal all along was to try to get to a mutually acceptable solution to this. I think we've finally achieved that," Save UA 911 President Charlie Reed said after a City Council meeting Feb. 6 at which Police Chief Tracy Hahn, Fire Chief Lyn Nofziger and Assistant City Manager Dan Ralley reiterated why the move makes sense.
Council is expected to vote Feb. 13 on a proposal to hand over dispatching operations to the Northwest Regional Emergency Communications Center in Dublin. That meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Upper Arlington Municipal Services Center, 3600 Tremont Road.
The NRECC provides dispatching for Dublin and Hilliard, as well as Norwich and Washington townships.
Upper Arlington officials have been discussing the possibility of outsourcing for roughly six years, including at one point a proposed merger with the city of Columbus.
Ralley, Hahn and Nofziger said they believe the NRECC would improve response times, in large part because the city's current dispatch center cannot directly receive calls from cellphones. The NRECC is one of five central Ohio dispatch centers that, through state law, are Tier I Public Safety Answering Points and can receive direct calls from cellphones.
Ralley said Upper Arlington's inability to receive cellphone emergency calls slows response times by an average of 47 seconds.
"If you think about it, more people are using cellular phones than are landlines," Hahn said. "We need to move on with the trends and receive those calls (and texts) as quickly as possible, and the only way to do that is consolidation with a Tier I PSAP."
Ralley said the move would reduce the city's annual and future costs for 911 dispatch operations. While UA will spend up to $1 million initially to join the Central Ohio Interoperable Radio System the NRECC uses and to build needed infrastructure, he said the annual costs to partner with the NRECC are estimated at $850,000.
Ralley said the city spends about $950,000 annually to run its center, but would need to spend about $1.3 million a year to staff it to the same levels as the NRECC.
The switch will mean four full-time employees and several part-time staffers will lose their jobs. Reed, who worked as an Upper Arlington dispatcher for 16 years, said he's sad that local dispatchers are being forced to make career changes.
But he added that he's pleased that Dublin has agreed to provide an expedited hiring process for local dispatchers, and he's comfortable with the quality of NRECC operations.
"Columbus is a good agency, but their methodology is different from Upper Arlington's," Reed said. "I would say Dublin and Upper Arlington are much more like-minded in terms of community-oriented dispatching, while obviously maintaining a high level of emergency support."