St. Joseph County will cover largest portion of consolidated dispatch cost

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- St. Joseph County will foot the largest portion of the bill when it consolidates several dispatch centers..

The county must do so as part of a state mandate, or risk losing 911 funding.

Currently, four separate dispatch centers are being operated. South Bend has its own, Mishawaka has its own, St. Joseph County has its own and Clay Township has its own. Walkerton has its own, but it does not directly answer 911 calls.

While it's unclear what dollar amount everyone involved will pay for the project, South Bend Deputy Mayor Mark Neal says the greatest cost will be to the county.

"The general discussion's been the allocations among all the entities will be based on both call volume, as percentage of the total, as well as assessed property values," Neal said. "The current calculations are the county would have the largest percentage, [South Bend] would have a smaller percentage."

Neal says the project is now estimated to cost closer to $17 million, instead of the previously stated $10 to $12 million.

Half of that money will cover building costs, while the remaining $8.5 million will pay for 911 technology.

"Those are significant costs," Neal said. "The technology requirements of a 911 center are significant. We're told it's not unusual to have the building cost and technology cost be roughly the same."

But, what appears to be a growing price tag has some people worried. It's unclear how South Bend will cover its portion of the bill.

"What I really want to do is get on the forefront and understand what the budget is going to look like going into next year," said Councilman Tim Scott. "It seems like it's growing and I want more information from the city to find out where we stand and understand that budget and what it means for our taxpayers."

Construction on the 911 center is slated to begin this summer.

While the county has repeatedly stated there is no intention to cut jobs, dispatchers will have to reapply for their positions.

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