Portage Co. forms emergency communication board - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Portage Co. forms emergency communication board

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STEVENS POINT (WAOW) -

The Portage County Sheriff has formed a board to improve emergency communications.

"We have all the experts from across the county. The folks who have been working in fire, EMS and law enforcement for decades, they've got the experience. They've got the knowledge," said Chief Deputy Daniel Kontos of the Portage County Sheriff's Office.

The board replaces an advisory committee.

"It's different than just advisory and just everyone coming in and listening in and hearing what's going on. This is actually working it," said Denise Schultz, an executive member of the communications board.

Board members said one on their top priorities is a unified dispatch center with the city of Stevens Point. County officials said it would increase efficiency and save money.

"We'd be able to improve public safety, improve responder safety, be more responsive to calls for service," said Kontos.

But Stevens Point emergency management officials said the city's dispatch center sees a high volume of calls, and they don't want service to be harmed by a joint system.

"We want to make sure that fire and EMS get the level of support and cooperation they deserve," said Sally McGinty, Stevens Point emergency management director.

McGinty said the communications board is a step in the right direction because it would allow city officials to be involved in dispatch decision making.

"We want to be able to have a say in the operation of that dispatch center. Dispatch is very important to police and fire operations," said McGinty.

Both county and city officials said public safety is their top priority. The city has until March 28 to decide whether it wants to combine its dispatch center with the county's.

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