Change coming to Montco 911 system

EAGLEVILLE, Pa. - December 29, 2009

Beginning next week, the county's more than 1,000 daily 911 calls will be handled at a centralized center in Eagleville, bypassing smaller call centers. It's a move that, officials say, will save money and streamline operations.

"On January 4th you'll get somebody here, they'll enter the call, and it will be dispatched right away," said Sean Petty, the Deputy Director of the Montgomery County Public Safety Department.

While incoming calls will all go to Eagleville, outgoing dispatches to 13 of the county's departments will still be routed through a series of individual remote dispatch centers.

This plan does have its critics. They argue, while smaller centers are more expensive to operate, local dispatchers know their towns best.

"Knowing the citizens, knowing the townships, knowing the police officers is critical to any move. How we integrate that to any move is a big question for us," said Chief John Norris of the Cheltenham Township Police.

But, the county already dispatches most departments and, at Eagleville, call takers and dispatchers sit near one another, which advocates argue can help in fast breaking cases.

The county adds, consolidation could also save it money.

"From an efficiency standpoint, we believe there are major savings and efficiencies doing all dispatch from one location," said Petty.

The county is planning to pass more of its costs to local dispatch centers. For now, Cheltenham is keeping its center open, but is studying its options.

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