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Published: Wednesday, 8/13/2008

Ohio Highway Patrol to combine dispatch centers

BY LAREN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Ohio Highway Patrol has begun consolidating its dispatch centers to reduce overtime costs and make better use of available technology.

Each of the patrol's 10 districts is making the changes on its own schedule, with no target date for completion.

The Toledo post will move its four dispatchers to the Bowling Green post on State Rt. 582 near Dunbridge on Monday, said Lt. Robin Schmutz of the patrol's Toledo post.

Combining dispatch centers will allow for more than one dispatcher to work at a time, which Lieutenant Schmutz said wasn't possible before.

"They can serve the public and officers better," she said.

When the local transition is complete, Lieutenant Schmutz said, about 10 dispatchers will be assigned to the patrol's Bowling Green post, handling calls for Fulton, Lucas, Henry, and Wood counties.

The Toledo post, located on Airport Highway in Swanton, will remain open, and command staff and troopers will continue to report there.

But visitors stopping by when all commanders and troopers are off-post will have to use a call box in the lobby connected to the dispatchers in Bowl-ing Green. Video cameras will allow dispatchers to see who they are talking to.

The Van Wert and Findlay posts also will become consolidated dispatch centers, reducing from six to three the number of dispatch centers in District 1, though Lieutenant Schmutz said it's not known when the other consolidations will be made.

Sgt. Anne Ralston, a spokesman at the highway patrol's Columbus headquarters, said technological advances allow troopers to be dispatched from fewer locations.

The patrol has computer-aided dispatching and global positioning to allow dispatchers to know where each cruiser is located in the district. Dispatchers can prioritize calls and dispatch the closest troopers to each, Sergeant Ralston said.

"It allows us to utilize our technology we currently have more effectively," she said.

The consolidation also will save money in overtime costs, especially at posts like Toledo, where there were only four dispatchers and illness or vacations could be problematic.

"We have more people there to be able to fill those gaps without utilizing overtime," Sergeant Ralston said.

District 2, just east of Toledo, completed its consolidation in November, said Sgt. James Faunda, dispatch supervisor at the Mansfield post. That district went from six dispatch centers to three.

Sergeant Faunda said at the Mansfield post alone, overtime costs were reduced 70 percent in the first six months of this year. In addition, the sergeant said the consolidation helps them better use the resources they have.

"It allows us to pull from a larger number of people to dispatch them to where they need to be," he said. "Just because you're a trooper in a certain county doesn't mean we won't bring you into an adjacent county to help."

Contact Laren Weber at:

lweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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