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Saturday, March 31, 2012


by Michael Monks 
The City of Covington has issued a press release on ending the city's dispatch center and terminating its sixteen employees. This is an update to the story that was first reported by The River City News. To see the original report, click the link below:
Here is the release from City Hall:
The City of Covington is getting out of the police and fire dispatching business.

The Covington Board of City Commissioners is expected to approve an order/resolution at its meeting on Tuesday night directing the City Manager to shut down its dispatch center in the Covington Police Department.

Over the past 13 years, three independent studies have concluded that a county-wide consolidated dispatch center will save the city millions of dollars while improving public safety.

Consolidation of emergency dispatch services is occurring on a regional and national basis. Kenton County is the only county in the state with three dispatch centers (Covington, Erlanger, and Kenton County). Both Campbell County and Boone County have combined dispatch service. Owensboro, a city roughly the size of Covington, has combined service with Davies County.

Changes in telephone technology are another reason behind the decision, Mayor Chuck Scheper said. "With the majority of 911 calls now coming from cell phones today, having multiple dispatch centers in close proximity to each other causes many of these calls to go to the wrong center because of location and topography," he said.

"Approximately one-fourth of all emergency calls are 'hand-offs' to other dispatch centers, which can add up to two more minutes in response time for first responders. In emergencies, time is of the essence and that extra two minutes can mean the difference between life and death."

Management Partners, a consulting firm hired by the city to study the issue, has indicated that centralization will not only improve public safety but will allow for greater cooperation among emergency services.

Nine different fire districts surround Covington and 19 different police forces operate in the county. Every member of the city's management staff interviewed by the consulting firm, including both the police chief and fire chief, agreed that a consolidated dispatch center would improve public safety, Mayor Scheper said.

"This will allow emergency first-responders to work more closely together and eliminate sending multiple agencies to the same incident, which sometimes now happens due to multiple dispatch centers in the county," said Covington Fire Chief Chuck Norris.

"Merged dispatch will provide better service to the community, enhance communications and cooperation between agencies, reduce redundant hardware and software, and enhance the long-range sustainability of the dispatch system," Norris said.

In addition to saving money and improving safety, Covington Police Chief Lee Russo said a merged dispatch system will provide valuable data for crime analysis and emergency planning.

"Information related to service demand and crime can be standardized across jurisdictions and will allow for analysis of crime and emergency service needs on a broader, more regionalized level," Russo said. "That will allow for better preparation for local jurisdictions to respond to current needs while planning for the future."

Mayor Scheper said that consolidated dispatching services will save the city about $1.2 million a year. The Covington dispatch center costs the city about $2 million a year to operate. 911 fees on landlines bring in about $670,000 and cell-phone fees bring in about $165,000 annually, resulting in a net deficit to the general fund of about $1.2 million, an amount that keeps on increasing because more people are eliminated land lines in favor of cell phones, Mayor Scheper said.

The 16 employees currently working at the Covington Dispatch Center will be offered a severance package. Some, if not all employees, will likely be offered employment with the consolidated dispatch center with comparable pay and benefits. Some may also choose to remain with the city under a "bumping rights" provision of collective bargaining agreement.

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