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LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Renner: Bloomington needs to rejoin Metcom

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In this November 2014 file photo, now-retired Metcom dispatcher Andy Stubblefield reviews a bank of digital displays at his workstation in McLean County's emergency services dispatch center.

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BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner said the time has come for Bloomington to rejoin Metcom, the countywide emergency communications system.

The Bloomington City Council voted in January 2004 to leave Metcom and transfer control of the city’s emergency service calls to the police department at the end of 2005, saying at the time that Metcom made too many errors.

The Bloomington dispatch center opened in June 2006.

“One of our goals moving forward that I will be working with (City Manager Tim) Gleason on and our other intergovernmental partners on, and hopefully make the transition with whoever is the new mayor, and that is for us to rejoin Metcom,” Renner said Friday morning on the Chamber of Commerce’s ‘State Of’ series which on Friday, focused on the City of Bloomington and the Town of Normal.

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Renner was on the county board 18 years ago when discussions started about Bloomington moving to its own dispatch center.

“I thought it was a horrible mistake for Bloomington to leave Metcom for all kinds of reasons,” Renner said. “It was extremely inefficient, extremely ineffective, very costly and right now, we need to get back into Metcom. We need to make sure that we are a single community.”

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Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said he would be in favor of such a move.

“It certainly makes sense for all of the agencies to be under one roof or dispatched out of one area,” he said. “It makes sense when we originally did it and it still makes sense now. If there is a way the agencies can work that out, I think it would certainly be beneficial and would benefit the citizens.”

McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage said he also felt the time was right.

“I think it would be a great thing,” he said. “I think anytime governments can cooperate and probably do it cheaper for the taxpayers and make it more efficient, I think that’s a great thing.”

“It was a little disheartening when they left Metcom, years ago,” he continued. “But I think at that time there was a different level of cooperation amongst leaders and I think that has improved a lot since then and I see no issues with it at all.”

Metcom Director Tony Cannon agreed.

“I have always believed that a county-wide dispatch system would provide the best service for McLean County citizens,” he said.

The split caused some bad blood between city and county officials, but time has passed and relationships are better now, Renner said.

“If there are those that seem to have bad blood from 18 years ago, let me remind you that was three mayors ago and three city managers ago,” he said. “The longest serving person on our city council now, started eight years after that happened. So if there is bad blood, we need to do what is in the best interests of our community and the City moving forward,”

There have been several discussions in past years about a possible merger, most recently in 2014, but those discussions died without any action.

The City of Bloomington would have to make a request to the Metcom Operational Board & Emergency Telephone System Board.


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Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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