A modern dispatch center is being constructed inside the Saline Police Department.
In August, Saline City Council awarded the project to Phoenix Contractors, who built city hall and the police department in 2002. The project is worth about $88,000, with $30,000 going to Phoenix and $28,000 going to purchase ergonomic furniture from Xybix.
Saline Police Sgt. Jay Basso is managing the project. He said the project addresses several needs, and with everyone on the county getting on the same 911 millage, this is an opportune time to upgrade.
There are several dispatch centers in Washtenaw County and while they are all connected, they aren’t on the same system. That will change thanks to the 911 millage renewal passed by voters earlier this year.
“We are all on the same computer aided dispatch system. We are all now on the same radio system and now the county is going to the same 911 system,” Basso said. “If the city bought its own 911 switch it would probably cost $180,000.”
When the Saline Police Department was built in 2002 the dispatch desk ran on a single computer and some written logs. Now the dispatch desk includes three computer towers and five monitors, which help dispatchers track things like location of the officers.
“The way the center is set up the dispatchers have to sit down and look way up at the monitors, which can be hard on the neck on the back. They flip from one side of the desk to another,” Basso said.
New furniture includes a hydraulic desk that can be raised if the dispatch officer wishes to stand.
“Everything will be at the proper level if they decide they want to stand up and move around a little. It’s not good to sit for eight or 10 hours,” Basso said.
The furniture has wiring built in so that there won’t be a mess of wires under the desks.
The new equipment that is being installed is expected to be compatible with new 911 technology that will be used soon, including video 911 calls.
One change that people will notice is that a pane of glass will separate dispatchers from the public. Currently, the dispatch center is open to the public. At times, this can be problematic. For example, events can become loud in the city council chambers and make it difficult for dispatchers to hear a 911 caller. In many departments, dispatch centers are tucked away in a room. But at the SPD, dispatchers also act as the face of the department, greeting people when they visit the station.
The project comes with challenges. First and foremost, Basso said, the SPD wanted to keep the dispatchers on site during the work.
“They are the face of the SPD and they do important work here,” Basso said.
So instead of having the dispatchers work from other departments, the SPD has created a makeshift dispatch center in an office.
“Great care was taken to make sure that everything was done right. When people call 911, they need assurances that we’re going to pick up the phone without technical problems,” Basso said.
Although you won’t see their faces when you approach the SPD offices, the dispatchers will still work the front desk. A camera will alert the dispatchers when someone approaches the office. When citizens arrive they’ll be greeted by a dispatcher at a Dutch door that was installed.
Basso the project should be completed by mid-December.
Most Saline residents don’t visit the SPD and won’t notice the construction. One thing many residents may notice is the absence of the Saturday afternoon siren test. The test was usually initiated at the SPD dispatch center. The only way to run the test would be to manually sound the siren behind Union School.
Basso said tests will resume when the new center is complete.