Atlantic County and Richard Stockton College announced Tuesday they have reached an agreement for the construction and operation of a countywide central dispatch facility for emergency services.
The dispatch center will provide a single point of contact for all emergency calls in Atlantic County, which currently runs a dozen communication centers.
The consolidation of services will be valuable to the county’s municipalities, which have struggled to keep pace with the rising costs of new equipment and technology. Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said the measure should save the county’s municipalities at least $1 million per year in technology, payroll and benefit costs, leading to lower taxes.
“With a centralized dispatch center every municipality will be able to lower its municipal tax,” he said.
The $17.2 million facility will be built on 10 acres of donated land on Stockton’s Galloway Township campus. The college has contributed $4.8 million to the project in exchange for full inclusion in all dispatch services in perpetuity. The remaining construction costs will be drawn from the county’s capital budget.
Stockton President Herman Saatkamp said the agreement is a win both for his students and the residents of Atlantic County.
“This is a long-term project that will benefit all the people of Atlantic County,” Saatkamp said. “At the same time, we will be providing an increased level of safety and service to Stockton’s students, faculty and staff.”
Stockton has offered its own police force for building security.
The concept of countywide centralized dispatch was first proposed almost 20 years ago when Levinson was freeholder chairman. He said economic struggles and the governor’s 2 percent tax cap on local governments made this the right move.
“It has become increasingly apparent that we can no longer afford to hold on to the archaic notion of home rule,” he said. “It’s in the best interests of our municipalities to combine our resources.”
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. Nineteen towns have indicated their interest in participating, according to a statement from the county.
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 will work toward establishing protocols and procedures for the new facility.
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