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Tuesday votes could bring new dispatch system a step closer to reality

NOW: Tuesday votes could bring new dispatch system a step closer to reality

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MISHAWAKA, Ind. – A series of meetings Tuesday could determine whether St. Joseph County is one step closer to a new 911 dispatch system.

The St. Joseph County Operations Board will vote on Tuesday whether or not the county should buy a new system from Motorola.

If approved, the proposal will then be presented at the St. Joseph County Commissioners meeting Tuesday where they would decide if officials could negotiate the contract with Motorola.

The new software already received approval from the 911 Executive Board last week. If it passes Tuesday’s hurdle, it would clear the way for a final vote to happen after the New Year.

The St. Joseph County Public Safety Communications Center installed the current system in June 2017. However, Ray Schultz, the center’s director, says dispatchers have had a tough time with some of the basic functions.

For example, when someone calls 911 it doesn’t always send first responders to the correct address. Dispatchers argue that could add seconds or minutes to the time it takes to get people help.

Schultz says this software is a better fit for a consolidated multi-jurisdiction center. He says it has more features to know if a street is in more than one city or town.

“We really rely on technology,” said Schultz. “We’re answering the telephone about a half a million times a year, which relates to about 250,000 dispatches a year. That’s a lot. We need to make sure that that happens as fast as possible.”

Some people aren’t happy the county may spend $2.6 million to upgrade a system installed just last year.

Schultz says they’re trying to be good stewards of the money. He adds the center is going to ask Motorola for the first payment not to be due until the new software is up and running to the center’s satisfaction.

“If there was any way possible not to spend that money, we absolutely would not,” said Schultz. “I’ve been dealing with this now for over a year, having the exact same problems and asking for the exact same thing. It gets to a point where we have to agree to disagree and just move forward.”

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