Tuesday, July 29


Logan County 9-1-1:
Could it be better?    
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[JULY 29, 2003]  The Logan County Emergency Telephone System Board says it could be better. They would like to create a uniform dispatch system. The entire board is in agreement, and ongoing polls of supporting emergency agencies agree as well.

The ETSB, representing the operation of the Logan County enhanced 9-1-1 system, has been working out the details, goals and intent to change the operation and management of the dispatch center. It isn't that there are any actual complaints about the state-of-the-art system or the dispatchers. Rather it is the vision of a few that something that is good could work even better.

As ETSB Executive Director Dan Fulscher said in his opening statement, "The 9-1-1 system is more than a piece of equipment. The whole system is only as good as the people who dispatch and respond to an emergency through it."

"The system has evolved to where we are now. And everyone on this board agrees that this is the right thing to do," he added.

The suggested solution is to have trained civilian telecommunicators with uniform responsibility under one director operating the 9-1-1 dispatch center.

Six members of the ETSB, 9-1-1 staff, dispatchers, Sheriff Steve Nichols and Fulscher were on hand to explain the proposed changeover. The board members represented the diversity of those most affected by the change, as well as city and county government representatives. Present were the Rev. Glenn Shelton, Lincoln City Council liaison; Mark Mann, 9-1-1 board member and dispatcher; Mike Patridge 9-1-1 board chairman; Dick Logan, Logan County Board liaison; Dave Deters, 9-1-1 secretary and Middletown firefighter; and Sheriff Steve Nichols, who also serves on the ETSB with Lincoln Police Chief Rich Montcalm. Chief Montcalm had other obligations for the evening, but it was expressed that he is totally in support of the board's proposal.

According to Dick Logan, putting civilians in the control room was the main topic of board discussion in 1994. Currently the coverage in the 9-1-1 dispatch room is still divided between city and county law enforcement personnel. There are five city officers and four county deputies who man the post. They sit side by side, each fielding calls in the center. They take over for one another as needed when one is overwhelmed by call tasks. Additionally, each has his own set of other duties and each is controlled by separate leadership, either by the city police chief or the county sheriff. This is where it is believed that the system could be better.

The reorganization would keep the most important attributes in the system in place. Chief Montcalm and Sheriff Nichols would still have full control of the important aspects in operating the room, but they would be relieved of the responsibility of monitoring their employees in that room. A director would handle day-to-day staffing and operational issues.


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Officers and deputies would be back out on the streets for duty where they are needed. The police would especially benefit from that action at this time, Sheriff Nichols pointed out. With the recent city budget cutbacks there were cuts made in the number of officers on the city police department.

The ETSB would set policy. The director would handle any law enforcement issues that come up by consulting with the police chief or sheriff and then going to the supervisors. There will be two supervisors over the dispatchers.

The dispatchers would be retrained with equal responsibilities, equal salary and benefits. Negotiators from the police and sheriff's department are the collective bargaining agents. Though the pay is different between city and county at present, Patridge said that they would try to keep the pay scale for the dispatchers at what they have now.

When negotiations for salary and benefits are worked out, Fulscher said, the board will have a proposal for the public to review. He said he hopes that will be by Oct. 31 or before.

It is believed by all on the board that having uniform duties under one director will streamline efforts, making the whole system more proficient and effective. In the words of Deters, "We have a 9-1-1 system that is second to none yesterday, today and tomorrow. This is one giant step forward for our 9-1-1."

"We want the community to tell us that this is the right thing to do," Fulscher said.

Emergency services will have a tent that is manned from 3 to 9 p.m. at the fair. They will have polls available for you to fill out. They would like to hear responses to the proposal from EMTs, professionals, police and the public.

You are also encouraged to contact any board member. Additional members not listed above are Norma Bathe, 9-1-1 vice chairman, Hartsburg; Robert Mayer, 9-1-1 board member, Mount Pulaski; and James Pinney, 9-1-1 board member, Atlanta.

Fulscher said their doors are always open, and they would like to hear your response before moving any further with the proposal. You can always call 732-3911 to register your opinion of the proposal.

[Jan Youngquist

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