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Ground Broken on Dispatch Center Expansion as Covington Repurposes Old Space

The Kenton County Emergency Dispatch Center will have 2,700 additional square feet of space as of June when construction is completed on $530,000 expansion at the Independence facility. Ground was broken on the project Tuesday afternoon. "This is a special moment," said Kenton County Judge-Executive Steve Arlinghaus. "I'm very excited about moving forward with this dispatch center project and what it means to our community."

The project follows the county's absorption of Covington's dispatch center and more than a dozen of its employees after the city opted to shutter its own operation in an effort to save $5 million over the next five years. "Covington has been a pleasure to work with," Arlinghaus said of the merger process. Mayor Sherry Carran, City Manager Larry Klein, and Assistant City Manager/City Solicitor Frank Warnock attended Tuesday's groundbreaking ceremony.

Other cities are following Covington to the county center. Last year, there were three emergency dispatch centers in the county including the county system and independent operations in Covington and Erlanger. Several cities currently serviced by Erlanger are moving to the county. Fort Mitchell, Lakeside Park, Crestview Hills, and Crescent Springs are expected to be part of the merged center as of August, Arlinghaus said. Taylor Mill, Park Hills, Bromley, Ludlow, and Fort Wright, are already on board.

"If we can get this final merger in place we can save our residents another $4.5 million over the next five years," the judge-executive said. Erlanger officials have publicly stated that they intend to keep their dispatch center open.

Taylor Mill Mayor Dan Bell, chairman of the center's board, promises big things. "We're going to do our best to make sure you get the best dispatch center in the state," Bell said. "Cities, be ready. We're going to do the best job we can do for you and we're going to save you money on top of it."

As more cities prepare to enter the county system, Arlinghaus expects five more dispatchers to join the staff with an additional four more in August.

Covington's former dispatch center put to new use

Meanwhile, the Covington Police Department has transformed the space that previously housed city dispatchers into its new briefing room. The adjoining offices will put supervisors and officers closer together. Chief Spike Jones said the new room will allow the different shifts to increase their coordination. Two new TVs will offer up-to-the-minute updates on day-to-day issues and crime reports while another will have general information such as weather. "There's a little more information available here than downstairs," Jones said.

City Manager Klein applauded the department for being cognisant of city dollars. The project cost around $4,900. The former briefing room in the basement will be used for special tactical unit operations, Jones said.

"Having a good work environment is important," Mayor Carran said. She, Klein, and Warnock also toured the new police space Tuesday. "These guys have enough stress on their shoulders."

Jones and Klein both commented that the transition of dispatch service being handled by the county has been smooth. "It's going very well," Jones said.

"It's been a great transition," Klein said. "We knew our dispatchers would continue to do a great job for the people of Covington."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Local leaders break ground on new dispatch center expansion in Kenton Co.

Photo (below): Second shift of the Covington Police Department is briefed in a new room Tuesday