Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2012, 1:37 pm
Editorial: Public safety Priority 1
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The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus
We're pleased that recent actions by some local leaders appear to indicate they are open to exploring joint delivery of critical emergency dispatching in the Illinois Quad-Cities.
First, the East Moline committee of the whole a week ago Monday voted to retain its partnership with Moline in a joint center that handles emergency calls. The council still must formally act, but we were encouraged that a majority of aldermen preliminarily rejected a costly plan to develop the city's own dispatching service. They agreed instead to stay with Moline and shoulder part of the costs of a $314,617 equipment upgrade of decade-old equipment.
East Moline's $125,846 investment in new equipment for the joint center it has shared with Moline since 1999 is significantly less than the estimated $400,000 it would take for East Moline to begin its own. Why fix what isn't broken, especially if it costs taxpayers more, not just next year, but every year?
Even better news is that the exploration of countywide dispatching service similar to Scott County's continues apace with cities like East Moline willingly taking part. (We're assured the equipment upgrades most E.M. aldermen backed last week are needed no matter what comes of this countywide effort.)
Rock Island County is using a $150,000 federal grant to study a centralized system to replace the six systems now in use. The effort got a boost when mayors of Rock Island, Moline, East Moline, Silvis and Milan, lent their support.
Steve Seiver, chair of the Rock Island County Emergency Telephone System Board, said those leaders represent four of the six dispatching centers at work in the county, including East Moline and Moline's shared dispatching unit at Centre Station. The grant will look at the county's needs based on its Comprehensive and Hazard Mitigation Plans. A committee soon will be formed to hire a consultant to do the study and the process could begin early next year, according to Denise Bulat, executive director of the Bistate Regional Commission.
If that's the recommended direction -- and we suspect it will be -- emergency service providers would not have to reinvent the wheel. They can look to the $28 million Scott County Emergency Communications Center opened in March 2011 to see what works and what doesn't at a center that handles police, fire and ambulance calls in the county.
Exploding technology also warrants a good, long look at new ways of delivering vital services. Things like Smart Phones, texting, Facebook, and Twitter are changing the way law enforcement and emergency responders do their jobs. A new, consolidated system could help maximize such tools, while ensuring all the agencies in the community can easily and quickly communicate with one another. And wouldn't it be wonderful if it ultimately saved money so that more could be invested in keeping citizens safe -- which is, after all, the No. 1 responsibility of local government?
Mr. Seiver, whose emergency telephone system board oversees the 911 system countywide, also says that consolidated centers in secure locations, like the one that houses emergency dispatching in Scott County, also are favored by federal homeland security officials. That makes sense.
Of course, just because the issue is being studied, doesn't mean it will happen. Illinois Quad-Citians have seen various consolidation efforts come and go clear back to the 1970s. Roadblocks including parochialism and fear of job losses sprang up to stop them.
But this time around, we'll keep our fingers crossed that the synergy exists to push the effort forward.
"What's driving this (study) is a desire to provide the highest quality of services we can afford," Mr. Seiver said.
Shouldn't that be everyone's top priority?