NORTON: The Southwest Summit Council of Governments, made up of a representative from Barberton, Copley Township and Norton, held its inaugural meeting Thursday in the room where the three communities will provide merged dispatching services for their safety forces.
Council members elected Norton Mayor Mike Zita as president, Barberton Mayor Bill Judge as vice president and Scott Dressler, the leader of the Copley trustees, as fiscal officer.
The first order of business of the three-member council was to adopt bylaws to govern the management of the communications center, located in the lower level of the Norton fire station.
Norton Administrator Rick Ryland said talk about the merger began more than four years ago.
“You wonder if you can actually pull the communities together to do this,” Ryland said.
He gave credit to the police and fire chiefs for the success of the project.
In November, each of the communities adopted an agreement to form the Southwest Summit Council of Governments to oversee the creation and management of the joint dispatch center that is expected to be operational by June 1. The compact leaves open the door for other communities to join in shared dispatching services.
The council will provide a way to initiate other shared projects, Copley fire Chief Mike Benson said.
Officials have hailed the center as a symbol of regional cooperation for saving lives and money.
“The Southwest Summit emergency dispatch center is only the first shared service initiative to operate under this council of governments,” said Benson, who heads the joint dispatch venture. “Everyone involved was willing to put aside their egos to make this happen.”
The Southwest Summit Council of Governments, established under guidelines set forth by the Ohio Revised Code, does not have taxing authority.
Judge said the merger simply makes sense.
“A few years ago, ‘regionalism’ and ‘collaborations’ were the buzzwords you heard, but little got done. Here we have three communities that did something,” he said.
A pilot program set up four years ago that merged dispatching services for Copley and Norton has helped work out any problems with the system, Benson said.
Barberton, which decided last year to join the dispatching venture, recently was awarded an $850,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grant along with New Franklin and Clinton to upgrade its emergency radios. The city applied for the grant with the move in mind, although the communications upgrade will not be completed until August, city fire Chief Kim Baldwin said.
One of the biggest advantages to the merger, aside from cutting some costs for operations to a third for each municipality, will be that EMS call-takers for all three communities will be able to give life-saving instructions to callers with medical emergencies.
“The Southwest Summit Communications emergency dispatch center is being designed to improve service, save more lives and save a little money, as well,” Benson said.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.