The Public Policy Forum is out with its report on the potential consolidation of the South Milwaukee, Cudahy and St. Francis emergency dispatch centers. And it shows some potentially significant cost savings.
Here is the report, which I’m still digesting.
Among the highlights from the report’s executive summary …
- “By consolidating their dispatch operations into an independent consolidated dispatch center, the three cities could reduce their current combined dispatch staff, thus decreasing annual operating expenditures by approximately $132,000 to $256,000.
- By consolidating their dispatch operations into an independent consolidated dispatch center, the three cities could eliminate the need to collectively replace two or three dispatch consoles, producing equipment savings within the next five years of approximately $400,000 to $600,000.
- If one of the three cities were to perform dispatch services under contract with the other two, or if the three cities contracted with a neighboring jurisdiction for dispatch services, then substantial additional savings could be generated.
- Weighing potential cost savings against the loss of local control and the potential loss of 24-hour staffing at each city’s police headquarters is a difficult endeavor.
- If the three cities do not decide to pursue consolidation of their dispatch operations, then they may wish to at least review whether the administrative tasks assigned to dispatchers might be more appropriately assigned to clerical staff.”
Of course, this is much more than a dollars-and-cents issue. The conclusion of the report states as much:
The report concludes that each city must consider whether to pursue an independent consolidated dispatch center – or to jointly contract for this service with a different jurisdiction – within the context of its own short-term and long-term financial circumstances and public safety needs.
Indeed, this is a complicated issue that demands more debate.
And, as we do that, this point from the report seems especially salient to me: “City leaders also should consider whether the possible pursuit of other public safety consolidation may further dictate the logic of consolidating dispatch services.” With the separate fire consolidation summary still underway and not expected to be completed until early 2013, it might be best to wait and see how all of the pieces fit together before acting (or not acting) only on dispatch consolidation.
Also, keep in mind that the study’s scope was to examine the potential for creation of a new stand-alone dispatch center merging the three existing operations. Public Policy Forum did not look at other potential combinations, including one community potentially contracting its service to the other two. That would be information I’d also like to see.
Still, this study is a great start and provides a good basis for a consolidation decision that I am sure is coming soon. I look forward reading and learning more — and the discussion.
I enter that debate in the same place I’ve always been: I’m open to consolidating city services where possible, but only if the quality of the consolidated service won’t suffer and if we can actually save money in doing it. Those are some big “ifs.”
Of course, I’d like to know what you think of the report and the potential for consolidation. Post your comments below!