The villages of Riverside and Lyons have announced their intentions to explore forming a combined police and fire dispatch system in an effort to streamline emergency dispatching in the two villages. The move is also expected to result in a long-term savings for both villages by combining resources to purchase expensive computer hardware and software.

Monday night, Riverside trustees voted unanimously to approve hiring a consultant to investigate what it would cost to make a joint dispatch center possible. The Village of Lyons’ Board of Trustees was expected to vote on the same proposal yesterday after press time. The two villages will split the cost of the consultant.

“The idea of joint dispatch makes a lot of sense,” said Riverside Village President Harold J. Wiaduck Jr. at a press conference held Dec. 16 at the Lyons Village Hall.

Also at the press conference were Lyons Village President David Visk, Lyons Village Manager Kevin Close, Lyons Police Chief Daniel Babich, Riverside Village Manager Kathleen Rush, Riverside Fire Chief Anthony Bednarz and Riverside Assistant Police Chief Thomas Weitzel.

“The opportunity for Lyons to build a facility here afforded us an opportunity,” Wiaduck added.

Since Riverside and Lyons share the same dispatch frequencies, the idea for a joint dispatch center was a natural fit, according to Rush.

“We’ve talked with them on and off about various joint operations in the past,” Rush said. “In the past we’ve even discussed the possibility of a consolidated fire department.”

In addition to joint dispatching services, the new setup could provide for a joint lock-up for prisoners and room for records storage.

In the works for months, the proposal was initiated by the Village of Lyons, which will build a new police station on 6 acres of land the village acquired on Lawndale Avenue just south of Ogden Avenue. In a complex land deal, Lyons received 12 acres of land, half of which will be used to build a new police station and village hall and half of which will be used to create commercial development. The land was previously owned by Material Service Corp.

According to Close, his village interviewed four architects for the project over the weekend. He expects to announce an architect for the new station in about two weeks, but estimated that a new station won’t be complete for at least a year to a year-and-a-half.

“We need to do a financial study [with Riverside], but we’re going forward regardless,” said Close, who added that Lyons would like to break ground on the project in mid-2006. “If we’re going to combine our lockup, storage and dispatch center we have to be able to design that.”

In the agreement approved Monday night, Riverside has until June 30, 2006 to agree to participate in the joint dispatch venture. If that’s accomplished, Lyons and Riverside would set up the dispatch center as a new governmental entity, with its own board of directors. Employees would work for the dispatch center, not for either village and contracts with employees would be negotiated separately.

Riverside would be expected to pay a portion of the construction and equipment costs of any new joint dispatch center. Asked just how much that might amount to Close said that hadn’t been determined yet, although Riverside’s portion is likely to be several hundred thousand dollars. Any final decision on creating the joint dispatch center would rest in the hands of village trustees.

“Our trustees would like to make sure this is a good business plan and good policy,” Rush said.

Asked how Riverside would be able to pay for such a large unbudgeted item in its 2006 budget, Rush said the village had some flexibility in its budget. She also did not rule out the possibility of acquiring new debt to pay for Riverside’s share of the facility.

“The village has some resources,” Rush said. “One way would be the reprioritize our Capital Improvement Plan. We have a pretty detailed five-year plan for infrastructure and capital improvements.

“This is a significant opportunity,” she added. “It’s well worth it for the trustees to evaluate a variety of funding sources to get this accomplished.”

Wiaduck added that by joining forces with another municipality, Riverside might be able to obtain some grant funding to assist in the construction of the new dispatch center, much in the way both Riverside and North Riverside obtained a large grant to help make the new water tower on 26th Street possible.

“Increased intergovernmental cooperation is the way municipalities go about controlling costs,” Rush said. “If this is successful, it’s another model for future things, whether it’s joint purchasing of equipment or services. You’ve got to walk before you run.”