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Atlantic County and The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey have reached a preliminary agreement for the construction and operation of a countywide central dispatch facility for police, fire and emergency medical services.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Atlantic County will build and operate the facility while the college will contribute $4.8 million towards construction and donate the land, approximately 10 acres on its Galloway campus. In return, Stockton will receive full inclusion in all dispatch services for the college.
"Stockton is pleased to provide land and funding to help enable a countywide dispatch service," said President Herman Saatkamp. "This is a long-term project that will benefit all the people of Atlantic County. At the same time, we will be providing an increased level of safety and service to Stockton's students, faculty and staff."
Additional funding for construction of the facility will be provided from the county’s capital budget. Construction costs are estimated at $17.2 million, depending upon the architectural design and plans.
“We are extremely pleased to be entering into a joint venture with Stockton College to bring this important project to fruition,” stated County Executive Dennis Levinson. “I applaud President Saatkamp for his cooperation in recognizing the need to consolidate and share services.”
Levinson explained that it is becoming increasingly costly for each municipality to continue to provide these services on its own, especially when it comes to upgrading equipment and technology.
“If we don’t start consolidating services and doing more with less, municipal taxes will keep going up,” said Levinson. “With a centralized dispatch center every municipality will be able to lower its municipal tax. We estimate central dispatch will help our municipalities realize an overall savings of at least $1 million a year in technology, payroll and benefit costs.”
The countywide central dispatch center will provide a single point of contact for all emergency situations in Atlantic County. There are currently 12 communication centers within the county that respond to emergency calls and dispatch police, fire and emergency personnel and equipment.
“Having multiple agencies and operations under one roof, working together and coordinating resources, will be a huge benefit as well as a significant cost savings,” added Levinson.
The concept of countywide centralized dispatch was first proposed almost 20 years ago when Levinson was freeholder chairman. The county executive noted that with the struggling economy and the governor’s two-percent tax cap on local governments, the timing is now right for central dispatch.
“The idea has been around for sometime, however, cooperation among the municipalities and affected agencies was always a stumbling block. But it has become increasingly apparent that we can no longer afford to hold on to the archaic notion of home rule,” he stated. “It is in the best interests of our municipalities to combine our resources.”
In addition to providing land and a financial contribution, Stockton College has also offered its own police force for building security, co-located within the central dispatch facility.
The proposed agreement will require the approval of the Atlantic County Board of Freeholders and the participation of a majority of the county’s 23 municipalities. At this time, as many as 19 towns have indicated their interest in participating.
Once an official contract is signed, the county would distribute a Request For Proposals for architectural design and specifications followed by a bid for the construction of the building. In the meantime, fire, police and emergency medical services would work towards establishing protocols and procedures for the new facility.