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911 director: Don’t reduce number of dispatch centers

Published 9:39pm Thursday, September 22, 2011

ST. JOSEPH — Potential legislation being developed by a state congressman to consolidate 911 dispatch centers could be detrimental to emergency services in Michigan, Berrien County commissioners were warned Thursday.
Dave Agens, 911 director for Berrien County, told commissioners that Rep. Richard LeBlanc, D-Westland, is crafting a bill that would cut the number of dispatch centers in the state by more than 90 percent, from 166 to 10 state-run offices.
Agens likened the idea to “using a meat cleaver to cut costs.”
“We would lose quality of service,” he said.
Agens said he has talked to local state congressional leaders, Sen. John Proos and Rep. Sharon Tyler, about the issue. Neither of them have seen any bills introduced to the House or Senate yet.
Agens was also skeptical that such legislation would be able to do what it is supposed to accomplish.
“There is no cost saving data to share,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll show any savings.”
Mac Elliott, 11th District commissioner, thinks the service wouldn’t be as strong if consolidation took place.
“Does anyone think government gets more efficient as it gets bigger?” Elliott said. “Going from county to state, there are efficiency losses based on scale.”
Elliott said such a move would also undo the 30 years the county has spent building the current system “at a cost of thousands of hours and millions of dollars.”
Agens said he would keep the county informed on developments on the potential bill.

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