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In her annual state-of-the-city address, Stow Mayor Sara Kline said she could have talked about several things, but she decided to focus on just one: Police and fire dispatching.
Speaking at the Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce's Feb. 21 monthly luncheon at the Silver Lake Country Club, Kline said this is because it is a subject that has been a preoccupation for some time.
"There are some of you in this room who have spent so much time on this issue that you have my permission to close your eyes and take a nap right now," said Kline. "But for those of you who haven't spent the hours and days and months and now the years on the issue of dispatch, I hope I'll be able to say some things that you're interested in."
Kline said Stow currently dispatches for itself and [under service contracts] for Tallmadge, Mogodore and Randolph Township. Over the last five years, she said, there have been leaps in both technological advances and in what is required of dispatch centers in terms of technology, personnel and training, something that is leading to increased costs.
"The pressures are really immense," said Kline.
Because of this, it is something she has had to concentrate on.
"Dispatch is one thing, I have to really say is one subject, I never thought in my life I would need or want to know as much about as I do," she said. "But believe me, I have come to appreciate, deeply understand, and have immense gratitude for the technology, the people, the passion, the time and just the amount of energy that goes into basically providing quality dispatch services for every community, including our own."
Kline said that two years ago, she began talking to Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters "about ways to move our dispatch services forward."
"We both have these tremendous expenses, staffing requirements, community needs and if we can work together and come together and form a regional dispatch center, that would benefit both of our communities," said Kline.
The result is a proposal for the two communities to form a council of governments, which will be "its own public entity," with Tallmadge and the Summit County Sheriff's Office also coming on board, said Kline.
Under service contracts, Cuyahoga Falls provides dispatching services for Munroe Falls, Silver Lake and Boston Heights.
The "anticipated location" for a regional dispatch center, said Kline, is in a Summit County Health Department building off Graham Road, just west of Route 8.
Originally, the three cities had hoped to form the COG by the end of 2016 and have the dispatch center operating by the middle of 2017, but Kline said the addition of the sheriff's office slowed things down.
"Having Summit County involved has really elevated things to a new level," she said.
Planners from the entities involved, said Kline, have formed "working groups" to focus on different aspects, including legal, financial, the facility, technology and operations, of the COG and the dispatch center.
Kline said other communities have also expressed an interest, but because of a need to move forward, adding other members will have to wait until after the COG is up and running.
"It's gotten a little bit like we are the most popular girl at the dance," said Kline. "Everyone wants to have a dance with us and we need to say, 'hey, we only have so much time, we only have so many songs to go.'"
Kline said the regional dispatch center will provide services "promptly, efficiently and safely."
"We are truly a leader and in the forefront of this movement," she said. "We will serve you well and I think you will all be very happy with the results."
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