The future 911 calls of South Bend residents will be answered by dispatchers in Mishawaka.
“The state mandated it, told us we needed to, otherwise they will put our 911 funds which is about $1.8 million a year,” said St. Joseph County Commissioner Marsha McClure.
In the future, there will be just one dispatch center that will serve all of the public safety agencies within the borders of St. Joseph County.
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).
The planned consolidation will mean that all of the people currently working at the four dispatch centers will essentially lose their jobs. “Everybody is going to have to basically reapply and it’s an opportunity to, you know, make sure people are put in the positions they’re best suited for, but we’re not looking to slash employees, you know, the cost savings at this time look like it’s coming from, you know, going from four different buildings to one,” said McClure.
The St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners today decided to locate the new dispatch center in Mishawaka, off Capital Avenue north of the bypass and south of 12th Street.
The land is owned by the State of Indiana and local officials are hoping to obtain the ten acres at no cost to local taxpayers.
Construction of a new $10 to $12 million dispatch center on the site is expected to start in July or August.
The hiring of a new dispatch center staff will be overseen by the county. Tomorrow, the St. Joseph County Council will be asked to create a new executive director’s position for the consolidated dispatch center.
“I think the biggest advantage is, we have some areas in the county that, you know, may be, for example, South Bend-Mishawaka, you may be on the borderline and be closer to a Mishawaka fire station,” said McClure. “We’re hoping that we bring a better quality, in the system, and that we can dispatch units that are closer to the home, the properties, the accidents.”
It’s not yet clear how the construction of the new dispatch center will be paid for. It’s also not clear how the various governmental units will split the cost of staffing the facility.