Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 28, 2013

MIKE KARICKHOFF: One of best dispatch services in state

Combined 911 more efficient, fiscally sound.


Kokomo Tribune

---- — We constantly hear stories of how federal, state, county, city and local governments have difficulty working together, compete and fight amongst themselves for their sole benefit — not thinking of the people they serve. That may be common in Washington, D.C., but I am glad to say that Kokomo and Howard County do not always operate that way.

In 2013, Howard County and the city of Kokomo were able to complete the final step of the emergency dispatch merger decades in the making. Over the past five decades, the city and county worked together to consolidate the location, funding and operation of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), making emergency dispatching much more efficient and fiscally sound.

When radio dispatch started in Kokomo, it was handled by uniformed police and fireman who worked from their respective headquarters, issuing instructions to their colleagues. City and county dispatch operations and funding were handled separately, even though they served many of the same people.

This initial system, while advanced at the time, proved to be inefficient in the long run, lacking modern equipment operated by specialized dispatchers and leading to a need for change. The process involved multiple sheriffs, mayors, and city and county councils who were willing to figure out the best way to serve our community.

Uniformed police and fire dispatchers transitioned to civilians; operation headquarters merged and moved to the jail; compatible equipment was purchased to seamlessly work together; city employees became county employees, Kokomo willingly transferred its levy to the county, demonstrating mutual trust, compromise and confidence.

The consolidated Howard County 911 dispatch service now utilizes the most updated technology available, making it one of the most comprehensive 911 dispatch services in the state.

This process took a long time and a lot of work, but in the end the taxpayers came out winners. Everyone is equitably paying for 911 services and no one is taxed twice. We have a state-of-the-art, modern system that is a prime example of technology being used to save taxpayers money. This model of cooperation between city and county is one that our D.C. leaders should replicate in putting differences aside to better serve the people.

A sincere thank-you goes out to all the past and present elected officials, fire, police and emergency management personnel, the Citizens Consolidation Committee and everyone else who worked to get the system we have today. Our community benefits greatly from this new operation.

Sheriff Steve Rogers may have explained it best when he described the textbook work of the Kokomo-Howard County 911 dispatch service during the recent disaster that devastated our community. More than 800 calls were answered in fewer than three hours during the tornado emergency, a feat that would have been near impossible before this transition. This new era of dispatch service makes Kokomo and Howard County safer, healthier places to live, work and raise a family.

State Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, represents portions of Howard and Grant counties, most of the city of Kokomo and the towns of Swayzee and Greentown. Contact him at H30@iga.in.gov.