Grand Rapids OKs 911 pact

May 5, 2010
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The city of Grand Rapids recently entered into another collaborative service agreement for 911 emergency calls, its second in a matter of weeks, and this time it’s with the city of Wyoming.

“This is really excellent news in the next step of our partnerships with the city of Wyoming,” said Eric DeLong, deputy city manager. “Wyoming is a critical partner and a strategic partner.”

The cities will share the responsibility for a new center that will dispatch emergency calls. The new facility will begin operations July 1 and will be housed in the Grand Rapids Dispatch Center on Monroe Center at Division Avenue. “All system employees will be city of Grand Rapids employees. We will be having some Wyoming dispatchers to fill out the staff,” said DeLong.

The joint venture will save both cities money. DeLong said Grand Rapids is expecting a cost reduction of $1.6 million from the partnership each year. “That’s 10 or 15 police officers,” he said. “Those savings will track forward.”

Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt said his city would save roughly $400,000 annually through the agreement.

DeLong added that the partnership model created for the dispatch center leaves room for other cities, like Kentwood, to join. “This is potentially a model for other types of consolidations,” said Rosalynn Bliss, 2nd Ward Commissioner.

The center will be governed by a team made up of both city managers — Greg Sundstrom of Grand Rapids and Holt — and by two other individuals. Sundstrom and Holt will each appoint one, and will also name alternates. Police and fire chiefs from both cities also will provide assistance. Holt chairs the Kent County Dispatch Authority and Sundstrom is its treasurer.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, who supported the partnership agreement, said a team like this one normally doesn’t include an elected official and that can leave elected bodies with less control over an authority’s actions. So Heartwell suggested that one elected official from each city be named to it.

But DeLong said city commissioners outlined the framework and set the guidelines for the partnership agreement, so the city’s elected officials have already played a major role in the center’s creation. “That gives us the freedom to do the work we do,” he said. DeLong added that technical guidance is the type of advice that the authority will most likely need. “This is a very technical service,” he said.

A few weeks ago, the city of Grand Rapids and Kent County agreed to share the responsibility for receiving emergency 911 calls, as both commissions approved separate agreements with the KCDA. That collaborative effort will reduce the number of call-taking centers in the county from five to just two. The Grand Rapids Police Department and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. will receive all 911 calls beginning Jan. 1.

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