By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — An 18-month effort to merge Madison County's police and fire dispatch will be complete early next year when the City of Anderson joins a consolidated emergency operations center.
That was the word Tuesday from Madison County Sheriff's Department Maj. Brian Bell, who submitted a preliminary budget proposal to the Board of County County Commissioners for consideration.
Consolidation of county 911 dispatch centers is occurring throughout Indiana under a mandate from the Indiana General Assembly. The goal is to perform emergency dispatch operations from one central location in small counties, and no more than two in larger counties like Madison.
Even though Madison could dispatch police and fire from two centers, local officials say one dispatch office makes the most sense from a standpoint of cost savings.
It also makes sense from a technology standpoint because all county police and fire vehicles are interconnected through a central computer system.
Last year, separate communication centers in Elwood and Alexandria merged with the county's system. "Now, we're taking that a step further," Bell said.
The new center will be staffed with 39 dispatchers (three of whom will have supervisory tasks), a 911 director, and a coordinator who will handle driver's license and vehicle registration duties, Bell said.
Initially, the center will be located at a facility on West 8th Street, but officials anticipate building a a new communication center that meets Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines at some point in the future.
"I've worked on this from the get-go," said Commission President John Richwine, R-North District on Tuesday. "Quite honestly, the ability to get every entity in government working on this has been quite rewarding."
County Manager Dan Dykes, who served as an Anderson firefighter (including a stint as an assistant chief), for more than 30 years, said it will be nice that all the departments will be able to communicate with each through a central agency.
In other news, commissioners unanimously approved a plan to livestream commissioner and County Council meetings over the Internet. Currently meetings are recorded, but are not available for downloading until the day following a meeting.
The plan will make it easier for Auditor Jane Lyons' staff, which is tasked with staffing, and keeping the minutes and agendas for the commissioners and County Council, said Lisa Phillips, an administrator for the Information Technology Systems department, and a council member.
"This is a fantastic leap in technology for this county," she said. "We've had a huge demand for live Internet access to council meetings, and this will take care of that."
The upgrade will cost slightly more than $14,000.
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Madison County Recorder Linda Smith plans to renovate the office she oversees, making it easier to use for both employees and the public to use. The county recorder's function is to maintain records of real estate, personal property, mortgages, leases, subdivision plats, military discharges and other documents. The renovation will cost about $21,400, which will come from the Recorder's Perpetuation Fund derived from recording and copy fees, which may be used without appropriation for preserving records and improving record keeping. As part of the renovation, records will be consolidated in one area of the office to make research easier, and there will be computers for the public to use and a small conference room to conduct staff training.