The merger is expected to improve the reaction time of emergency personnel to 911 calls.
The County Commissioners were optimistic about the merger, as was the Sheriff, who joked about tearing down the glass wall that currently separates the two departments.
The Allen County Sheriff, Ken Fries, says the merger won't eliminate any jobs; in fact county employees' pay will increase, while city employees' pay stays the same.
The merger won't save any money. Costs will actually go up to pay employee salaries and benefits. In addition, in 2011, joint dispatch will need a new backbone system for their radios. That costs around $500,000. Fries say that purchase will need to be made even if the merger doesn’t happen.
Linda Bloom says any additional cost is worth it. Bloom says “The cost really can't be put into this formula. Think about it, we need better efficiency, we need better service. Like I suggested this morning, if this can make us all better and more efficient does it really matter what color vehicle shows up in your drive way? I don't think so.”
The merger will likely be paid for by additional fees added to your land line and cell phone bills and prepaid cards. Lawmakers are working on a law that will allow joint communication departments to charge fees through phone bills, instead of increasing your property taxes.
The merger is far from over. The Mayor, City Council, and County Council still have to approve it. An executive director will have to be hired to oversee the joint communications department. Sheriff Fries say the director should be hired by the end of May.