A multitude of factors go into analyzing the Consolidated Dispatch issue in Scott County. It is tough to summarize in a blog format, but I believe the long-term benefits of a merger is in the best interests for all Scott County residents.
A public meeting was held tonight to review options and this will be coming before city councils and the county board in the near future.
New NFPA regulations and federal mandates are just around the corner for dispatch centers. All centers will need to upgrade. Issues like proximately to hazardous cargo (i.e. downtown train tracks) come into play. The County, Davenport, and Bettendorf all have current centers near tracks that transport "potentially" dangerous cargo. New radios and frequencies will have to be utilized in the coming years and you can bet as technology continues to rapidly evolve this cycle will continue.
This study began because it didn't make sense to buy into these upgrades and build new centers (or upgrade centers) three times: in the city of Davenport, in the city of Bettendorf, and in the County. One central center could do the trick. This has been done in many areas and has worked by improving efficiencies and effectiveness.
The three entities have a window of opportunity, BEFORE the new regulations take place. We are definitely coming to a crossroads. Davenport is scheduled to build a new center at this juncture, most likely in the North-Central part of town. Davenport has already approved dollars in the budget for a new center.
If we pool our resources the taxpayers will be better off in the long run. The study factored in the preservation of all current dispatch jobs. I would assume a new union might form for a consolidated group; also a governing board would (most likely) be implemented.
The major concerns brought up tonight included:
1. A fear for a lowering of the levels of service in certain areas.
My thought is if we have the same amount of folks on the job at the dispatch end of things we should run about the same. The challenge remains after the call is dispatched - then each city or the county is on the hook to provide levels of service (which is an unrelated issue).
2. The compensation/benefits for the dispatchers.
All have been guaranteed same levels of pay. A new union would then work out the benefit details and the union members would need to communicate their goals and objectives.
3. The costs.
All cities are mandated to improve services, with that comes costs. I believe it is better to share the costs versus replicating the costs multiple times.
4. The high number of calls in Davenport versus other areas.
The report showed that Davenport had over one call per resident, while other areas averaged a number under 0.5 per resident. This is a true statistic, but one needs to take this with a grain of salt. Davenport is the hub of the Quad Cities for: shopping, entertainment, restaurants/bars, traffic, and downtown business. Solely Davenport residents don’t make the 100,000+ calls. Folks, that reside in, Eldridge, LeClaire, Bettendorf, Illinois Quad Cities, and every place in between are making these calls as well. People come to Davenport from outside the city limits on a regular basis. These folks have fender benders, shoplift, create situations at bars, and can become unruly at festivals. All of this falls on the backs of the city. I would have preferred that this statistic would have had a disclaimer.
I know all elected officials are interested in looking out for the best interests of those they represent. I truly believe a partnership could be a win/win for all involved. Sometimes, in the QC's, we have "turf issues" there is no question of that. But, we have had some success in working with Rock Island. Moline and Rock Island have partnered on some initiatives. The Illinois chambers have merged, Bi-State's regional commission has grown in effectiveness, and the QC Development Group has formed consensus. All of these models have improved our efforts to partner and work together. Consolidated Dispatch could be the next step in this direction. It is my hope that we are able to turn this idea into a reality.