Porter County Sheriff's Department

What's Happening at The Porter County Sheriff's Department


Valparaiso to Transfer 911 Service

Valparaiso to transfer 911 service to county 

Officials say change will save money and improve efficiency

BY KEN KOSKY  Date posted online: Saturday, July 07, 2007


JON L. HENDRICKS | THE TIMES Dispatcher C.J. Wittmer takes a call at the Porter County dispatch center Friday. Valparaiso has forged an agreement with the county to have the county dispatch center handle the city's emergency calls.


VALPARAISO | When the Valparaiso Police Department's new station opens later this summer, one notable change will be the absence of a 911 center to answer emergency calls and dispatch police and firefighters. It's not needed, officials said.  Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas and Porter County Commissioner Bob Harper on Friday signed a document to have the Porter County dispatch center handle Valparaiso's calls.   The merger will allow the same or an even higher level of service to be accomplished with less staff, Costas said. The consolidation will save the city of Valparaiso $250,000 it would have spent to put a dispatch center in the new station and will save about $200,000 a year in dispatcher salaries.  "This makes a lot of sense. ... This is also a national trend," Costas said.  Harper said it will save Porter County taxpayers money.  "I'm excited about it, and I think it's good for everybody," he said.  The county 911 center spends more on dispatchers. However, some of the cost will balance out since there no longer will be a need to spend money from the county phone surcharge fund to buy and maintain separate equipment for Valparaiso.  When Porter County started 911 service in 1994, Harper was disappointed that "turf wars" prevented the county from dedicating a single dispatch center to serve the whole county. Instead, Porter County, Valparaiso and Portage each built separate centers.  Portage will continue to use its own dispatch center, which Valparaiso can use as a backup if something were to happen to the county dispatch center, which is inside the sheriff's department.  One of the stumbling blocks to merging has been the loss of control. If a Valparaiso resident isn't pleased with the service received from a Porter County dispatcher, the mayor or police chief can't directly discipline the dispatcher.  "It is a leap of faith (turning over dispatching duties), but they earned the trust because of their past performance," Costas said of the county dispatch center.  County 911 Director Dave Sheibels said service and response time won't suffer but should actually improve.  None of the seven full-time Valparaiso dispatchers will lose their jobs when the switch occurs in three to six months, since five will be hired by the county and the others can remain with Valparaiso in switchboard or clerical positions.  The agreement Costas and Harper signed is expected to receive final approval from the County Council and commissioners within the next few weeks. The county dispatch center was built with future consolidation in mind, with only four of the eight work stations currently in use.


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