POMEROY — Beginning Jan. 1, when residents in Meigs County call 9-1-1, the person on the other end of the line will be able to handle the call regardless of if it’s for law enforcement, fire or emergency medical services.
The Meigs County Commissioners approved a resolution on Thursday to establish the Meigs County 911 Center — a centralized dispatch agency — and the oversight board which will work to set up the transition of services and continued operation of the centralized dispatch.
Prior to this, law enforcement dispatch had been handled separately from fire and EMS dispatch, leading to some calls coming in to one agency or the other needing to be transferred in order to be assisted.
The resolution approved by the commissioners read in part, “The current Meigs County Commissioners see an opportunity to fulfill the completion of a true 911 Center that will handle the receiving and dispatching of all emergency communication between the public and public safety, included but not limited to fire service, emergency medical service, and law enforcement.
“The expected revenue from the 911 levy combined with a commitment from the county commissioners will allow for a true 911 Center to provide for emergency communications and allow Meigs County to be in compliance with rules and mandates from the Ohio 911 program office,” continued the resolution.
Dispatch for the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office had been handled from the sheriff’s office until the beginning of COVID-19, when the dispatcher moved to the Robert E. Byer Emergency Operations Center, alongside, but not combined with fire and EMS dispatch.
“Response time to emergencies has decreased tremendously (since the move),” said Meigs County 911 and EMS Director Robbie Jacks. “The goal is to make the community safer for our citizens and we have done that.”
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, the dispatchers which are working for EMS or the sheriff’s office currently will become Meigs County 911 Center dispatchers, able to handle calls for law enforcement, fire and EMS. Calls will be handled from the Emergency Operations Center.
Director Jacks stated he is confident the people handling the calls are very skilled in what they do and will be ready to take on the challenge of the centralized dispatch.
Jacks noted that last year Meigs County 911 invested approximately $213,000 in new technology and equipment which has not yet been utilized to its full potential. The system will be able to handle many of the needs of law enforcement dispatch, alongside EMS and fire dispatch.
The Meigs County 911 Dispatch Agency is able to be formed in part due to the 911 levy which was approved by Meigs County voters in November 2019.
The oversight board will consist of the EMS Director, EMA Director, Meigs County Sheriff, one Meigs County Commissioner and the President of the Meigs County Firefighters Association.
The oversight board will be working out details such as job duties, pay scales and other details on how the new agency will operate prior to Jan. 1.
Sheriff Keith Wood stated that the centralized dispatch has been something that has been needed for a number of years, but is not without concerns.
Wood stated that the sheriff’s office dispatchers are the “heartbeat of our office,” handling a number of duties, including serving as corrections officers for the jail space when it was open at the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office dispatchers also work to find housing for inmates, make sure transports and appointments are scheduled and complete call logs among many other things.
Wood expressed concern regarding not having those individuals in the sheriff’s office handling many of the duties they have in the past, but that it is something to be worked on in oversight board discussions on exactly what duties the new dispatch positions will include.
While there will be challenges to be worked out, Sheriff Wood, Director Jacks, Major Scott Trussell and commissioners Jimmy Will, Randy Smith and Tim Ihle all agreed that the move to centralized dispatch was needed and in the best interest of the residents of Meigs County.
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Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.