Sheriff's Office Communications Upgrade Gets County Council Approval
A vital upgrade that officials hope will pave the way to further consolidate public safety dispatching services in Volusia County under the Sheriff’s Office won the County Council’s unanimous approval Thursday afternoon. The council gave the green light for an approximately $467,000 replacement of the Sheriff’s Office’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system along with another $259,000 expenditure for computer equipment such as servers, monitors and workstations to interface with the new system.
Considered the backbone of the Sheriff’s Office’s Communications Center, the computer-aided dispatch system enables dispatchers to identify the location of a call and the closest responding unit. The CAD system also documents calls and runs a variety of reports. Upgrading the Sheriff’s Office’s 12-year-old system will accommodate other police departments and public safety agencies that may want to contract with the Sheriff’s Office for dispatching services. Under the administration of Sheriff Ben Johnson, the Sheriff’s Office has supported the consolidation of dispatch services as a way to save tax dollars and improve communications during public safety calls that often cross jurisdictional boundaries and involve responses from multiple agencies. The Sheriff’s Office has dispatched for the Lake Helen Police Department and County Beach Services for years. Finding it a more economical way to provide services, Orange City and Oak Hill decided earlier this year to contract with the Sheriff’s Office for police dispatching services in both cities, beginning Oct. 1.
With the addition of Orange City and Oak Hill, the Sheriff’s Office is expected to dispatch nearly 40 percent of all law enforcement calls in the county during the next fiscal year. Sheriff’s officials hope other cities will decide to come on board later as the new upgrade approved Thursday goes on-line. “Consolidating dispatch under Volusia County Government and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office is a natural choice,” states a report presented to the County Council on Thursday. “...Adding additional channels for city frequencies will not create significant training issues and will expedite the transfer of important information between law enforcement and other emergency response units. This coordination will result in more efficient use of resources and safer working conditions for our emergency responders.” Sheriff Johnson punctuated the point in remarks Thursday to the council. “As you know, we’ve been working on consolidated dispatch for some time,” said Sheriff Johnson. “It’s something that is needed for the citizens of Volusia County.”
The county also has plans in the works to reconfigure the radio room at the Sheriff’s Office’s Communications Center in Daytona Beach to accommodate further expansion of services. While final action hasn’t been taken yet, the council was briefed Thursday on plans for interior modifications to the radio room to make room for an increase from nine dispatch consoles to 18 and from seven call-taker consoles to 12. The estimated cost of the project is about $98,000. It will take another approximately $200,000 to outfit the radio room with new console furniture and chairs once the remodeling is completed. Officials expect to bring the remodeling project to the council for approval next month.
The first phase of the consolidation project will focus on law enforcement dispatching, and the Daytona Beach Police Department could be the next agency to come on board. On Wednesday, the Daytona Beach City Commission passed a resolution supporting the project and authorizing the city manager to enter into negotiations with the Sheriff’s Office. Daytona Beach Police Chief Ken Small personally hand-delivered the resolution to the County Council Thursday. “We wanted to support the Sheriff and let you know that we’re serious about it,” Chief Small told the council.
After the initial phase, the county plans to expand the project in the hopes of bringing fire and EMS dispatching under the same roof. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the fragmentation of dispatching services that currently encompasses a dozen 911 call centers spread out around the county and save taxpayers’ dollars in the process. “It will reduce cost, and it’s a better way of doing business,” the Sheriff’s Office’s Chief Deputy, Bill Lee, told the council. “It’s more efficient and safer for our law officers, our firefighters and our EMS personnel. It gives us an easier way to communicate in emergency situations amongst each other without having to re-route calls.”
Officials also agreed that one of the goals is to relieve some of the turnover and stress for public safety dispatchers by making their workspace more comfortable. “Dispatching, as far as I’m concerned, is the hardest job in law enforcement,” said Sheriff Johnson. “It takes a special person to do that,” added County Council member Dwight Lewis.
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151