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EMS chief asks county for $450,000

March 13, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County Emergency Services Director Joe Kroboth has asked the County Commissioners to approve nearly $450,000 in renovations to the 911 communications center, saying the facility lacks the space to accommodate equipment and program upgrades.

The renovations would begin in fiscal year 2005, which starts July 1.

The project would include a new fire and rescue dispatch operations room, improvements to the administrative offices and a training room for emergency service providers, according to the county's proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for fiscal years 2009-13.

The project's cost is listed at $432,500.

In a March 2 memo from Kroboth to the commissioners, Kroboth wrote the current facility has been painted, gotten new carpet and has had some equipment upgrades, but no other projects to modernize the facility have been done since 1975.

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Commissioner John C. Munson said Friday he thinks the center's administrative offices are adequate and that renovations should only be done to a storage room in the building to increase space for dispatchers.

Kroboth also has proposed in the memo that the county build a complex that would house county and city police, fire and rescue dispatchers and several countywide emergency services offices, which eventually would replace the current center.

The new complex also would serve as a training center for police and emergency service providers, according to the county's proposed CIP.

Design work for the complex would begin in fiscal year 2009, and the facility would open in fiscal year 2013.

Once the new center opens, the current center would be used as a backup emergency communications site.

A total amount for the proposed complex project is not listed in the county's CIP.

Kroboth could not be reached for comment Friday.

In an Aug. 29, 2003 letter to the commissioners, Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner recommended that city and county dispatch services be conducted from one communications center.

Breichner wrote that state grant funding may favor cities and counties with a joint communications facility, "based on the philosophy that they are more cost-effective in equipment and staffing, as well as providing improved services to our citizens."

He said a combined facility would significantly reduce staffing costs, capital and operating expenses and cut down on response times.

For example, he wrote that currently, a caller first must explain a police emergency twice - first to a 911 dispatcher, who transfers that caller to a law enforcement dispatcher, and the caller must repeat the situation.

"Consider the time and trauma of explaining a life-threatening situation twice under critical circumstances," Breichner wrote.

"I am sure that you will agree with me that a central, unified communication center would greatly improve the safety of our citizens, save tax dollars, and further our goal of City/County cooperation," Breichner wrote to the commissioners.

Munson said he doesn't think a new complex is needed and said renovations to the current 911 center should be kept at a minimum.

"I don't think we need to do any major work right now," Munson said. "I'm not in favor of spending all of our money for something we don't need and we can't afford."

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