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The North Tonawanda Common Council is considering joining Niagara County and the City of Niagara Falls in a shared service study of countywide 911 police and fire emergency dispatching.

County Sheriff Thomas A. Beilein recently outlined the study at a meeting of the North Tonawanda Council.

The idea grew out of an informal meeting last year between representatives of the county and Niagara Falls to explore cost sharing, Beilein said.

One of those participating in the talks was North Tonawanda Police Chief Lloyd Graves.

Beilein noted that the Sheriff's Department and the Niagara Falls Police Department both are using Community Police Services 1996 grants to put laptop computers and mobile data terminals in patrol cars.

The system "would establish a common network between the departments," he said. "Currently, both agencies are participating in a joint venture to integrate their respective systems."

Beilein said the two agencies have applied for further funds from COPS '98.

"Included is a request to provide the North Tonawanda Police Department with the same capability, along with the ability to electronically scan, file and save fingerprint data.

"Via computers, it is envisioned that every patrol car in the county will be able to access data and communicate with each other," the sheriff said.

Further research is needed to determine staffing levels, he said, but "there would be a reduction of the total number of individuals currently working as dispatchers throughout Niagara County."

"The saving for the short-term will be personnel costs for the three cities," he said.

Options for covering the increased cost of the system to the county include sales tax, a surcharge or a direct subscribers fee for the cities participating, he said.

The intent is not to save money by eliminating jobs, Beilein said, but "to become more cost effective and efficient."

Primary Niagara County "public safety answering points," or dispatch centers, would be located at the sheriff's office in Lockport, the Lockport Police Department and Fire Department, the Niagara Falls Police Department and the North Tonawanda Police Department.

The North Tonawanda Fire Department would be designated a secondary public safety answering point, as well as the State Police in Lockport.

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