As Riverside continues its investigation into the possibility of creating a joint emergency dispatch center with the Village of Lyons, Riverside trustees agreed last Thursday to a significant upgrade of its police and fire communications equipment, record-keeping system and current dispatch center.

By the end of summer, the Riverside police and fire departments expect to have completed the $664,000 improvement, which will include a new wireless mobile network communications system, a completely updated computer-aided dispatch center and a records management system that will allow both police and fire personnel to access the same system directly from the field.

“In the last two-plus years, the fire, police and E-911 boards have been looking at upgrading the current condition of our communications, dispatch center and record-keeping system,” said Fire Chief Anthony Bednarz. “All the boards sat down … and made the decision to pool the money into one group to benefit this.”

The plan to upgrade the communications system should not conflict with the possibility of a future consolidated dispatch center. Bednarz said that Lyons has endorsed the equipment Riverside is looking to purchase, and Village Manager Kathleen Rush said that any of the new equipment would be considered an asset when negotiating Riverside’s monetary contribution to a new consolidated dispatch center in Lyons.

Riverside’s E-911 console and equipment, which was upgraded in 2004 to take calls from cell phones, would also be able to be transferred to a new dispatch center. Lyons’ E-911 system currently does not have the ability to accept 911 calls from cell phones.

Trustee John Scully emphasized that “when we consolidate, I want to make sure it’s compatible, because that gives us a leg up” [on negotiating Riverside’s contribution to the new dispatch center].

“I feel confident this will not be a problem,” said Police Chief Eugene Karczewski.

According to information provided to the board, the police, fire and E-911 board have money in their budgets to pay for the improvements.

The E-911 board, which collects a $1.25-per-line monthly surcharge from phones registered in Riverside will provide $200,000 from its coffers. The Riverside Police Department will roll over a $225,000 planned expenditure in 2005 for software upgrades to the 2006 budget, while the Riverside Fire Department will roll over a $60,000 planned expenditure in 2005 for mobile data terminals to this year.

In addition, the Riverside Fire Department in early December 2005 received a $185,700 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as part of its Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. By combining all of their resources, Riverside emergency services were able to come up with $670,000 to pay for the improvements.

The upgrades, which received unanimous support from village trustees last week (trustees Thomas Shields and Cindy Gustafson were absent from the meeting), will be implemented in three phases.

The first phase, which will begin this month, will be to install the wireless mobile network, which, for the first time, will allow police and fire units to communicate with each other in the field. It will also allow the main fire station near village hall and Fire Station No. 2 on Pine Avenue to communicate with each other via computer.

Computers will also be mounted in fire department vehicles similar to the ones currently installed in Riverside’s marked police patrol cars.

To complete the system, the village needs to erect four new antennas. Proposed locations for the new antennas are the existing radio antenna tower behind village hall, the joint Riverside/North Riverside water tower on 26th Street, the brick smokestack at Riverside-Brookfield High School and at Fire Station No. 2.

Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Mulligan, who is the chairman of Riverside’s E-911 board, said the hope was to have the equipment and antennas installed by March.

Phase two, which Mulligan said he hoped could be completed by April, would be renovating the existing dispatch center. The current radio consoles date from 1984 and 1991, Mulligan said.

The renovation would include new lighting, flooring and furniture. Bednarz explained that even if Riverside agrees to a joint dispatch center with Lyons in the future, the facility was “two years out.”

The third phase of the project would be to install a new computer-aided dispatch and records management system. According to Mulligan, the new system would allow both police and fire personnel to access information in the field and would be capable of adding other agencies to the system in the future.

“I think this will put us in the top tier with other progressive public safety communities,” Mulligan said.