After months of planning and preparation, the consolidation of the City of Spring Hill’s Emergency Dispatch Department with Williamson County Department of Emergency Communications became effective yesterday Jan. 2, 2019.
The consolidation plan will combine the City of Spring Hill’s 24-hour emergency dispatch communications and Williamson County Emergency Communications into a single entity at a level consistent with Spring Hill’s current exclusive dispatch services.
After a year of diligent discussion, the Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) in October approved the dispatch consolidation plan as a cost-saving measure that, in the long run, will improve the speed and efficiency of emergency responses.
The City will annually fund the employment costs of the 10 dispatchers it will take to handle Spring Hill’s emergency calls. All of Spring Hill’s existing dispatchers had the opportunity to transition to Williamson County to avoid layoffs. The consolidation is estimated to have a net annual savings of more than $350,000 to City operational costs, and even more savings in avoided future capital costs. At the start of the new fiscal year, July 1, 2019, the County also will hire an additional supervisory position and two additional dispatcher positions. The City will maintain one dispatch employee to coordinate with the Williamson County and to handle other associated tasks.
The savings in future capital costs is also seen as significant in the consolidation plan. The City’s Emergency Dispatch Center, housed in the basement of City Hall, has long outgrown its space. It was initially considered by City officials as to whether it should be relocated to the City-owned Northfield Complex. However, relocating all the associated equipment and continuing to maintain the communications system with the latest technology would come at a significant cost. Williamson County now offers the latest technology and equipment, which will ultimately improve our emergency response time.
“I think the move is good for the City of Spring Hill and our Fire Department; the technology that Williamson County has in place will save thousands of dollars for our City,” said Spring Hill Fire Chief Terry Hood. “Seconds count in an emergency response and, during our testing, the guys could see the calls on the new MDTs before it was dispatched over the radio.”
“As we approach the transition date to consolidate our 911 system over to Williamson County Emergency Communications, we look forward to partnering with them and the other Williamson County agencies,” Spring Hill Police Chief Don Brite said. “There will be a period of adjustments to be made as we become familiar with their operations. Williamson offers technology that will benefit our department.”
Williamson County Emergency Communications Department, which will handle all Spring Hill emergency calls on both the Williamson and Maury County sides of Spring Hill, views the consolidation as creating additional efficiencies in numbers at its state-of-the-art Public Safety Center in Franklin. The County will handle emergency communications for the cities of Franklin, Spring Hill, Nolensville, Fairview, Thompson’s Station, and all unincorporated County communities (College Grove, Bethesda, Arrington, Triune, Leiper’s Fork, etc.).
Spring Hill’s team of dispatchers has been in constant training with Williamson County to ensure a smooth transition.
Williamson County answers 911 calls, dispatches fire and EMS, takes non-emergency phone calls, and operates and maintains the technology related to answering those calls, such as radios, I.T., and related infrastructure, said Steve Martini, Director of Williamson County Department of Emergency Communications, who made a public presentation to the BOMA in March 2018 when the consolidation proposal was still being considered.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to consolidate public safety communications operations with the City of Spring Hill,” Martini said. “This partnership will streamline reports of emergencies from most of Williamson County and part of Maury County into a single emergency communications center, ensuring consistently staffed and trained public safety communications professionals are prepared to coordinate emergency response to our citizens and visitors.”
The City has operated its own emergency dispatch center since 2005, the year former Mayor Ray Williams died as a result of a heart attack after a responding emergency vehicle experienced difficulties due to unfamiliarity with Spring Hill’s roads and subdivisions. This unfortunate incident served as the impetus for the forming of Spring Hill’s own emergency dispatch services and the contracting of private ambulance services to exclusively serve the Spring Hill area.
After extensive training and testing, the consolidation is structured to be a seamless transition. All existing Spring Hill emergency and non-emergency phone numbers will remain operational. The public will still be able to request officer assistance in the SHPD’s lower level of City Hall location. The Safe Exchange Zone – which serves as a public meeting place for any sort of transactions between residents, such as exchanging money for a product purchased on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace – will continue to be video recorded for safety purposes but will no longer be live monitored, as this was previously handled in our dispatch center at City Hall.