Sunday, June 11, 2000

New dispatch system catches on

3 communities join Norwood

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NORWOOD — With a $250,000 state-of-the-art police dispatching and 911 system humming in City Hall, Safety Director Cliff Miller is tempting other communities to contract dispatching with Norwood.

        The Golf Manor Fire Department and Deer Park/Silverton Joint Fire District are the first to agree to contract services with Norwood's Highlands Communications Center.

        The system can provide some communities with a less expensive alternative to the Hamilton County Communications Center, Norwood officials said.

        “This is the first time Norwood has ever launched an effort to provide communications to other communities, but the decision to go with a world-class dispatch system had already been made before me under former Safety Director Paul Bazzano,” Mr. Miller said.

        “We had an antiquated system and the previous director had the foresight to plan ahead,” he said.

        “I made the determination that we did not need (to join the Hamilton County Communications Center).”

        The county went with a more powerful system with more expensive hardware to upgrade communications to the 115 safety departments it serves, primarily around the edges of the county.

        “Since we put in the needed system to provide for our services, I got to wondering if there are others in our boat, and we had this brand-new infrastructure in place,” Mr. Miller said.

        Sgt. Steve Daniels, who oversees Norwood's 911 and records systems, said the city is blessed with one of the county's highest points, off Indian Mound Avenue — the location of its emergency communications tower.

        A key reason Norwood decided not to subscribe to the county system is because “we are the hole in the doughnut — surrounded by the city of Cincinnati on all sides” and there are a handful of other small communities in a similar position, Sgt. Daniels said.

        For other communities fairly close to Norwood, the system provides them with an alternative, he said.

        “I do not want the county to think we are slamming them,” Sgt. Daniels said. “The county's is a great system, but we do not need that in an urban setting.” To con vert to the county's system would have cost Norwood an estimated $500,000, he said.

        Greg Wenz, operations director for the Hamilton County Communications Center, said, “Our feeling is that we provide a community service and it is up to individual communities to decide who will provide their communications services.”

        Mr. Miller said Golf Manor police have decided to remain under the county's system, while the fire department will join Highland Communications with the Silverton/Deer Park Fire Department by July 1.

        That decision was influenced not only by cost but also because the two small fire contingents rely on each other to provide aid and it makes sense for both to be linked to the same communications center.

        Golf Manor will pay Norwood $15,000 a year for the services while Deer Park/Silverton will pay $20,000. Each will pay about $1,500 in start-up costs.

        Golf Manor Mayor Dennis Puthoff said the village will eliminate its own dispatching, which costs an estimated $190,000 to $200,000 a year— a significant drain on the budget of the community of about 4,000.

        Under new contracts, the county will charge the village about $31,000 a year for police dispatching and Norwood will charge about $15,000 for fire dispatching.

        Start-up costs, primarily for new radio equipment for police and fire, will be about $52,000. Even with those costs included, the village will save about $100,000 a year, the mayor said.

        Norwood will add three to five new hires to the current 14 dispatchers to accommodate the additional communities.

        Deer Park/Silverton and Golf Manor fire departments will operate under a separate radio frequency. Dispatching of Norwood's safety services will not be affected, Mr. Miller said.


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