Grove City plans to upgrade the software it uses for its police and fire dispatching.

City Council has been presented with legislation for a $629,860 contract for the new software from Tyler Technologies, a Texas-based public-sector software company.

The software is similar to equipment from Tyler Technologies that the city's finance and court departments both use, said Kelley Davidson, communications manager with the Grove City Division of Police.

"Matching our equipment with what's already being used in our other departments will help with greater efficiency and transparency in record-keeping and data collection," Davidson said.

The upgraded system also would provide quicker and more accurate information about where police cruisers, EMS vehicles and fire trucks are at any given time within the communities they serve, she said.

"That's going to make it much easier to determine quickly who is closest or best able to respond to a call," Davidson said. "When you're talking about an emergency call, a fire or medical emergency, seconds really do count."

"The old system we have is really at the end of its usefulness. It can't advance any further," said William Vedra, the city's safety director.

"The new system is in its infancy. Its capabilities will be able to expand and be enhanced as time goes on," adding more sophistication and flexibility to the communications center, he said.

"We look at our role as being a regional dispatching system with Jackson, Prairie and Pleasant townships, so it's incumbent for us to stay up on the emerging technology and be on the leading edge in providing dispatching service," Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said.

Officers would be able to communicate with the communications center through the new software using a tablet computer, smartphone or smartwatch, Vedra said.

"If an officer is on a foot chase and drops his radio or is injured or in danger, they still will be able to communicate, which will improve the safety and efficiency of our officers," he said.

In responding to a call, officers would be able to file a police report from the field using a tablet computer, adding to the department's efficiency, Vedra said.

City Council is expected to hold a second reading and vote on the agreement with Tyler Technologies at its Aug. 5 meeting, Davidson said.

If the legislation is approved, the software would not be installed until 2020, she said.

The city would make two payments of $314,930 each in 2020 and 2021 for the purchase and installation of the new software.

Dispatchers would go through training to use the new equipment and practice using it before it would go live, she said.

"We will want to make sure everybody's up to speed so there's no gap in service when we switch from our current system to the new software," Davidson said. "Our dispatchers can't be out of service for any length of time."

The current software system has been in use for about 17 years, she said.

"It's really not equipped to keep up with all the advances and changes in technology that have occurred over the years," Davidson said. "People are contacting 911 in a variety of ways now, not just using a landline."

Grove City provides dispatching service for the police department and the Jackson, Pleasant and Prairie township fire departments.

The police department has 13 dispatchers on staff, Davidson said.

"We typically have three people on duty at any given time, except during third shift, from about 3:30 to 7:30 a.m., when usually have two dispatchers, because it's a less-busy time," she said.

Over the past 12 months, dispatchers have taken about 93,000 calls for service, with 83% being for the police department and 17% combined for the three fire departments, Davidson said.

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