Ontario Malheur County and the City of Ontario are considering a consolidation of their emergency dispatch centers.

Those dispatch centers answer all 911 calls for the city and county, as well as coordinate police and fire activity.

This is something that's been talked about for years, but some believe this is the year it will happen.

Ultimately the decision will down to money. Consolidating will save the county and the city money, but it's more complicated than just shutting one dispatch center down.

And even though the plan is to consolidate, both sides believe people calling 911 won't be able to tell the difference.

Both the city and the county provide similar services and in mostly the same area, just to different agencies. Something else they have in common, is they're both understaffed.

We have not been able, through adequate budget times, to get adequate staffing in either one of these centers, said Ontario Police Chief Mark Alexander.

The county currently has six full-time employees at their dispatch center. The city is budgeted to have six and three-quarters, but currently has five. Each service runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The idea behind combining the two would be to take the 12 plus employees budgeted right now and drop it down to nine.

With nine, we can have two on duty at all times, still be able to cover vacations, training, those types of things, said the Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe.

That means phone calls will still be answered as quickly as they used to be and help will come as fast as it does right now.

This issue is something the Ontario City Council has been working on for the last several months. It took up nearly an hour during their meeting Thursday as they discussed logistics.

The big question many have, and no one has the answer to, at least right now, is how much money will be saved.

Costs are always increasing, but we're hoping to realize some savings, said Alexander.

Alexander's rough estimate is between the city and the county it could save a third of what it currently spends.

Both the sheriff and the chief say that savings will not come at the expense of public safety.

The hope is always that with better staffing, adequate staffing, pooled resources that you're going to provide a better service, which would provide a safer community, said Alexander.

The Ontario City Council and Malheur County are each working on the plan individually.

If the consolidation does happen, the sheriff thinks it could be in the next six months.

This idea of consolidating dispatch centers is the same thing Nampa Mayor-elect Bob Henry would like to see happen in his town.

He told KTVB last week that he would like to see the Nampa's 911 dispatch center go away and contract that service to Canyon County.

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