MIAMI COUNTY — Built more than 25 years ago to be the county’s central dispatch, the Miami County Communication Center handles all calls for each of the county’s law enforcement and emergency services departments 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Until earlier this year, the building hadn’t undergone any major renovations since it opened.
For a week, operations moved out to the county’s back-up center while the dispatch room was gutted.
Workers repaired the subfloors — damaged after 26 years of chairs constantly rolling around, Director Jeff Busch said — and installed new flooring, special carpeting that reduces static to protect electronics. New soundproofing on walls and ceilings, something that comes in handy when you work in a room full of people who are always on the phone and the radio.
“We love it,” Supervisor Teri Newbright said. “We’re still getting used to it. These sound absorbing panels really do work, we can’t even hear each other now.”
Newbright has been working at the center for about 20 years and said she’s never seen such major renovations take place there.
“It was down to bare bones. We’ve gotten new consoles and computers since I got here, new radio system, but this is — to completely tear the room apart? I’d never seen anything like that,” she said.
The real standout features of the renovation are the new workstations.
According to Busch, the goal was to reorganize the room and make improvements for employee health, which made new workstations a necessity.
The center had collected a mix of technologies over the years, but recently joined the statewide simulcast Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (MARCS). With that switch in systems came new equipment and the 26-year-old workstations were no longer suited for the new technology, Busch said.
The previous workstations housed the old, bulky radio consoles, and weren’t designed for computers he said.
“The old radio stuff was all buttons and switches and wires that were all inside these metal cabinets,” he added. “Now the radio is just a computer.”
Each station has eight screens with different functions, including the phone system, mapping, call logging, and the MARCS radio.
Because the center is staffed around the clock by telecommunicators working 12 hours shifts, the workstations had to be comfortable, Busch said. The center employs 17 telecommunicators and five supervisors.
The workstations were chosen by the staff from several different manufacturers. Each station has eight screens mounted on movable arms, which can be adjusted by height and angle to each employee’s preference. The stations can even be adjusted to be used while sitting or standing.
The stations also have built in heaters, fans, USB ports and audio jacks, and LED lights.
“A team from here went out and researched. They looked at different brands of equipment, there are probably a dozen or so manufacturers,” Busch said. “They’re the ones that have to use it.”
The county commissioners approved the renovations last October. The workstations were purchased from RDT Concepts of Avon, Ohio, at a cost of $191,680.
The renovations to the facility were performed by Old Oak General Contractors of West Milton for $39,277.
For the last few years, the center has been upgrading its emergency response systems.
Last fall, after more than a year of preparing the county’s communication system, the county commissioners approved an agreement with the State of Ohio for participation in MARCS. According to Busch, most of the surrounding counties are or will be on the MARCS system.
Prior to joining the new system, the center made several purchases of equipment needed to communicate with other participating agencies in the state.
In 2015, the county purchased more than $1 million in radios and other equipment for county agencies from Motorola — 230 portable radios for law enforcement, 256 fire and EMS portable units, and 233 mobile radios for vehicles.
Over the summer, the board approved the purchase of an over-the-air recording system to record radio traffic on the six frequencies that comprise MARCS.
“It was just time to really upgrade things and get it to deal with our current technology,” Busch said.
Reach Cecilia Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.