By Nancy Molnar
Special to the Beacon Journal
CANTON: Stark County commissioners decided Wednesday to eliminate the county’s 911 call-taking operation, a move expected to save time and money.
Beginning in January, 911 calls from landlines outside Canton and from cellphone calls placed in the county will be sent directly to the sheriff’s dispatchers.
Canton’s dispatching center is unaffected by the move and will continue to receive 911 calls from hard-wired phones in its coverage area.
The change will eliminate the need to transfer some 40 percent of the county’s 911 calls that are forwarded to the sheriff’s communications technicians for further handling.
“This is a subject that we have looked at very, very thoroughly,” Commissioner Thomas Bernabei said.
Work toward consolidation of emergency dispatching throughout the county included a 2008 study by a consultant that pointed out the potential for calls to be mishandled when they are transferred, with the report noting that some calls are transferred more than once.
At the time, the county had 13 dispatching centers, which have since been reduced to eight, in addition to the county 911 operation.
Elimination of the county’s 911 call center will abolish the jobs of 14 full- or part-time employees. They are to be given the opportunity to apply for the five dispatching positions Sheriff George Maier expects to add through the move.
Commissioners will pay the sheriff $29,397 monthly for the extra duties. The county’s 911 fund, supported by cellphone surcharges and a 0.1-mill property tax levy, is expected to save $341,847 a year.
The surplus could be set aside for the expected purchase of next-generation 911 hardware and software in the next three to five years, Bernabei said. It also could be used to buy radios for emergency personnel.
Wednesday’s agreement between the commissioners and the sheriff ends a three-year contract approved in 2012 that placed 911 operators in the sheriff’s radio room.
The new contract with the sheriff runs from Jan. 16 through Dec. 31, 2014.