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Fayette: Officials look at regional dispatching

| Wednesday, March 24, 2004

UNIONTOWN -- Fayette County's head of emergency management wants to cross borders.

In a measure scheduled to be up for vote later this week, Roy Shipley, emergency management director, is seeking to develop a plan to expand the radio dispatch system into Somerset and Greene counties. Doing so would strengthen communication among those responding to fires, accidents and disasters, especially along county borders, Shipley said.

"We dispatch on different frequencies," he said.

Some of the companies located near borders monitor two radios for emergency calls, but that method is ineffective and expensive, Shipley said.

The possible expansion came under discussion Tuesday at a Fayette County commissioners' meeting. The board is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution that would authorize Shipley to plan the tri-county system.

"I think this is a great opportunity," said Commissioner Vincent Vicites, adding that it could bring in grants. "The funding is much needed for what you do."

Planning included, expanding the system may cost $15 million, said Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink. Shipley said he will be looking for grants.

If the regional system is successful, Shipley said he would look to connect it with counties located to the north. Going across the state line would prove useful, too, he said. Often, those hurt in accidents are taken to hospitals in Morgantown, W.Va., or Cumberland, Md., he added.

Emergency response officials have recognized the strengths of regionalized dispatching systems for years, Shipley said. The Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks helped highlight the issue, he added.

"We assisted up there (north of Shanksville) when Flight 93 crashed," he said. "That would have made it easier then."

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