Dispatch consolidation deemed a success

By: Robin Ruehlen | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 9, 2013

BEVERLY HILLS — The first few months of dispatch consolidation between Beverly Hills and Birmingham has not been without glitches — but according to Birmingham Police Chief Don Studt, the transition has ultimately been successful.

Studt presented a status report of the first quarter, which ran from July 1-Sept. 30, at the Jan. 2 regular meeting of the Village Council.

“We signed the agreement last April to consolidate dispatch services by July 1. At the time, I wasn’t real sure it was a do-able time frame, but I’m proud to say we did it,” Studt said.

According to the agreement, Birmingham pays for the necessary capital improvements at its existing station, and the village pays an initial amount of $232,500 for the first year of operation. After the first year, operating expenses will be shared, 65 percent by Birmingham and 35 percent by Beverly Hills.

Studt said Birmingham has since obtained a new 911 system, an additional 911 trunk line to increase capacity for calls and a third dispatch workstation. Computer-aided dispatch workstations were reprogrammed, and video monitors, maps and phone lines were purchased and updated, along with the street address guide. GPS was also activated in all patrol cars to aid operations.

“The city has expended almost $140,000 in updating the 911 center, and while I know some of you came in awhile back for a tour, I invite you to come back at any time,” Studt said.

Staffs from both departments have held meetings to develop dispatch procedures and a manual of operations. Currently, the communications center is staffed with six full-time dispatchers and three part-time ones.

However, Studt said, the Michigan Public Safety Commission in December mandated training for 911 operators statewide, which establishes basic and advanced training and continuing education requirements for all dispatch personnel, which impacts all dispatch centers.

“That might cause us a little hiccup now and again,” he said. 

Birmingham reported 1,693 calls for service at the end of the first quarter. Of those, 137 were from Beverly Hills. Village Manager Chris Wilson said in a memo that financial reports and call volumes for the second quarter will be provided as soon as possible.

Studt said that close to 35 percent of the calls for service are from Beverly Hills.

“It’s going to be a year before we really know how this is going to shake down. Things change in the winter and spring and fall, but we’ll know by July,” he said.

“Those are pretty consistent historically, when we looked at number of calls for Beverly Hills and Birmingham — it’s pretty much split 65-35.”

Citing some confusion that occurred during a 911 call from the Southfield Township offices in November, Clerk Sharon Tischler asked that dispatchers be reminded that the township is also covered through the Birmingham dispatch center.

“When the call was made in November, the dispatcher heard me say Southfield Township and her response was, you need to call Southfield,” Tischler said.

“It’s difficult to fault the dispatcher, because I think some of this is a lack of information being supplied, and I’m not trying to lay blame. My assumption is that there was not communication from our department to Birmingham about Southfield Township.”

Beverly Hills Public Safety Director Rich Torongeau said he personally explained to dispatchers that Southfield Township was indeed part of Beverly Hills, following the November incident.

“I think that was the first time the dispatcher had received a call from Southfield Township,” he said.

“We’ve had meetings since then with our people to make sure everything is squared away.”

Following questions from Councilman Walter Briggs, Studt said he was not aware of any delays in response time or service complaints from village residents, following the consolidation.

“This was a major operational change for both the village and the city. There’s been a few potholes, but I think, by and large, it has been pretty smooth,” he said.

“One of differences in the village is the public-safety component, rather than separate police and fire, which we were used to, but operationally we’re working together quite well.”