Danville city councilman proposes studying merging city, Pittsylvania County dispatch centers

Dr. Gary Miller believes merger could save money, lives

DANVILLE, Va. – Currently, Danville and Pittsylvania County have their own dispatch centers.

Danville city councilman Dr. Gary Miller believes that if they merged, dispatchers might be less confused about how to handle certain calls.

That could speed up the response time for first responders, possibly saving lives.

"Definitely. Definitely," Miller said when asked if he thought lives could potentially be saved by having one dispatch center.

"We have calls where there's been controversy. 'Is it in the county? Is it in the city? Whose jurisdiction is it?' I think if we had a unified dispatcher, they would just dispatch one person, the closest service, to pick up the patient."

But Danville Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Dishman, who oversees the city's dispatch center, said response times may not actually improve.

Martinsville and Henry County have one dispatch center, as does Halifax County and South Boston.

"I don't think any of these localities have found that it improved response times because there's still a process to go through and protocols and the like there," Dishman said.

He said merging the dispatch centers was discussed informally about 10 years ago, but the idea proved to not be worthwhile.

He also said a merger would be very expensive.

"You're probably talking tens of millions (of dollars) when it comes to building out infrastructure and items and all that," Dishman said.

Miller isn't ruling out the possibility of saving money by having one dispatch center though.

"I think that's something we need to look at. I think we could (save money)," Miller said.

Pittsylvania County's public safety coordinator said he couldn't comment Monday because he didn't have enough information about what a merger would entail.