by Judy McGovern | The Ann Arbor News
Thursday June 18, 2009, 6:34 AM
Washtenaw County's largest fire department joins a regional dispatching system next month.
Ann Arbor's move to contract with Huron Valley Ambulance for fire dispatching is expected to prevent unnecessary calls for service and reduce labor, city officials say.
It will ultimately reduce the city's costs - but just how much remains to be seen, said Police Chief Barnett Jones, who oversees all safety services for the city.
"We'll know after we get in to it," he said.
Firefighters currently respond along with HVA paramedics to calls where an illness or accident is believed to be life-threatening. Dispatchers at HVA are better trained to make that judgment, said Assistant Fire Chief Ed Dziubinski.
Eliminating fire department responses to calls that don't rise to that level will save fuel, wear and tear on vehicles, and time, Dziubinski said.
The city's two-year contract with HVA bases payment on the volume of calls. The cost for fiscal years 2009-10 and 2010-11 is about $100,000 a year.
The nonprofit HVA serves most of Washtenaw and parts of Wayne and Oakland counties. It already dispatches for nine fire departments in Washtenaw County. Pittsfield Township and Ypsilanti are among those that still operate their own dispatch centers.
The city's police and fire departments have shared a dispatch center for about six years. The 23 dispatch positions will remain with the police department, Jones said.
City and county officials are working on a plan to consolidate police dispatch services, which county officials project could reduce costs by $6.4 million over 10 years.
The Huron Valley Ambulance Board of Trustees has agreed to build an addition for dispatch operations at its headquarters off State Circle in Pittsfield Township. The new center could open as early as the spring of 2010.
The city also expects its new contract with HVA will result in $89,000 in start-up costs for IT and telecommunications. Dziubinski said the costs can be covered in the department's existing budget and may be lower than predicted.
Judy McGovern can be reached at 734-994-6863 or email@example.com.