STEVENS POINT, WI (WSAU) - Emergency communications in Portage County are undergoing two major changes, and there may be a third soon.
First, the informal Dispatch Advisory Group is now a formallized as a permanent Communications Advisory Board. The bylaws were approved Wednesday, and the new Board will meet for the first time March 27th. Chief Deputy Sheriff Daniel Kontos says all of the stakeholders will be involved to help tackle issues and projects related to emergency services communications and dispatching.
Kontos says the county’s communications center is being expanded right now, but they are preparing for several upgrades to their aging equipment. “Not only is our dispatch center being remodelled, we are looking at replacing the aging 9-1-1 system with the next generation 9-1-1. We are looking at redoing the county’s entire radio communications system as far as public safety goes sometime in 2014 or 2015, and we are looking at possibly bringing the city (of Stevens Point) into a unified communications center with the county.”
The Chief Deputy says dispatching has changed a lot from when he used to do it. Now, Kontos says you need a professional telecommunicator. That’s why they hired Denise Schultz to run the operation.
Several projects have been on hold, but Kontos expects many will see progress real soon. “We’ve been holding off on the projects until we finished up with creating this Communications Board, and we get the final word from the city whether or not they would like to come and join us in our communications center. Once we get those two issues straightened out, we can really move forward on some of these projects.”
The Emergency Management Office was moved to allow for the communications center to double in size. Kontos says the construction work is proceeding well. “They’re in there today doing some electrical work and doing some painting . We’re hoping to have the dispatchers move back up into their newly-remodelled center within a month and a half or so.”
Discussions are set for Friday with Portage County and City of Stevens Point officials to consider merging their two dispatch operations to improve coordination and save money. A decision on this possible merger could happen before spring.