Is the state's first-of-its-kind emergency services merger coming to Central New York?

Two local county executives announced Wednesday they are pursuing a potential consolidation of their emergency 911 services.

According to them; creating a singular dispatch system will increase coverage, resources and sharing of information between the two areas. They say it would make the system more efficient, which will improve the overall safety in their communities.

They also say it will save the taxpayer some cold, hard cash.

What's going on?

The news came from Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. and Herkimer County Chairman Vincent J. Bono, who released a statement about the potential move.


Said Picente:

I have long been a proponent of consolidation and we have implemented many practices in Oneida County that have improved efficiency and saved our taxpayers money. Bringing Utica, Rome and New Hartford into our county 911 system was a major success and adding Herkimer County into the fold would greatly improve the emergency services of our region.

He also added that this move is strategic because it'll address the "critical shortage" affecting the telecommunication workforce.

As for Bono, he agrees this is a smart move for the two counties, as they're both struggling with worker shortages.

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"Recently, both counties have made mention of short staffing in their 911 centers and have identified the critical need to explore consolidation efforts in this area," said Bono.

The proposal is currently in its exploration phase. While consolidation may appear attractive in theory, a thorough review is needed to ensure this is the best possible move for Central NY residents.

What consolidation means

There's already been a few meetings to look into the possible benefits and consequences of joining the two emergency dispatch systems.

At the moment, all signs seem to point toward a smooth transition.

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Among the items outlined in these preliminary meetings are that Oneida and Herkimer County share a geographical border, which means emergency services has already responded to both areas.

They say consolidation would increase communication between the dispatch and emergency response services.

Additionally, it was noted the move would also make available virtual emergency call processing and dispatching technology that would enhance service to the local area.

Moreover, Herkimer-area residents would gain access to Oneida County's text 911 program, in addition to the first responder communication system IamResponding.

Oneida County would also share its backup 911 center and Nurse Navigation Program, where licensed nurses can respond to non-emergency calls, with Herkimer.

A first in the state

To start, this wouldn't be the first time Oneida County joined forces with another county's 911 system. The City of Rome teamed with Oneida County in 1997, followed by the Town of New Hartford and the City of Utica in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

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However, having Herkimer County tack onto Oneida's services is unique. According to the press release, "A combined dispatch center of this nature would be a first in the state."

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Officials also said a merger would be supported by monthly charges like VOIP surcharges or cell phone fees. Additionally, they'll be able to take advantage of shared service grants that are available in the Empire State.

At the moment, it is unknown if the consolidation will go ahead or when it could potentially happen.

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