Tuesday, February 21, 2017
911 Consolidation Between Bethlehem and NorCo Raises Concerns
Neither Northampton County nor Bethlehem has any say in this matter. This is a state mandate under a law enacted in 2015, increasing the fee charged for 911 services. Under this law, consolidation must be substantially completed by June 30, 2019.
Todd Weaver and Bob Novatnack, newly minted EMS Directors in NorCo and Bethlehem, said they have been meeting monthly to navigate this transition. Weaver estimated that this consolidation will require between 10 and 18 new dispatchers, each of whom takes a year to fully train. Novatnack added that Bethlehem currently has 22 FT and four PT 911 operators. They both acknowledged there are Human Resource issues.
The state has provided $8.1 million to facilitate this coordination. This money is being used to purchase new communication centers in Bethlehem, Allentown and in both counties. They will be connected to each other, so that if one goes down, the other can act as a back-up.
Kraft, who represents Bethlehem on Northampton County Council, wanted to know whether the consolidated dispatchers will still have the same camera access as they currently have in Bethlehem, which enables them to assist police officers in finding fleeing suspects.
Weaver and Novatnack danced around the question. Weaver said that monitoring cameras is a "law enforcement activity," while Novatnack suggested that operators in Bethlehem will still man the cameras. .
"It just seems like it's not going to go as smooth as it sounds," worried Ken Kraft Weaver said there will be "bumps in the road."
"I hope the County doesn't drop the ball," said Kraft.
Hayden Phillips warned that this consolidation is just the first step. He said there are reports that the state's ultimate plan is to have one regional communications center for the entire Lehigh Valley.