Adjacent Upstate New York counties, Oneida and Herkimer announced on Wednesday, they're exploring the possibility of consolidating the two 911 systems, according to a press release issued on Wednesday afternoon.

"Combining Resources Would Ease Workforce Shortage, Save Money & Increase Safety," was the headline for the release as Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and Herkimer County Chairman Vincent Bono jointly announced the exploratory action.

“I have long been a proponent of consolidation and we have implemented many practices in Oneida County that have improved efficiency and saved our taxpayers money,” Picente said. “Bringing Utica, Rome and New Hartford into our county 911 system was a major success and adding Herkimer County into the fold would greatly improve the emergency services of our region. This measure would alleviate the impact of the critical shortage in the telecommunicator workforce, reduce cost and increase the safety for all of our residents.”

Bono agreed for Herkimer County, stating that rising costs and the difficulty in finding employees played a role in sparking the conversation.

“Herkimer and Oneida counties are not unlike many other government and private entities when it comes to the shortage of employees for vital services,” Bono said. “Recently, both counties have made mention of short staffing in their 911 centers and have identified the critical need to explore consolidation efforts in this area. Herkimer County looks forward to working with our neighbors in Oneida County to investigate what can be done in this field. Looking at all aspects of 911 center operations, and how both governments can provide efficient, safe and effective service for their residents should be explored now more than ever.”

The counties have already had several meetings discussing the feasibility of such a move. The result is the belief that several factors would contribute to a smooth transition.

They include:

· Their shared geographical boarder.

· Several police and fire agencies and ambulance services already covering areas in both counties.

· The ability to share information via the internet, microwave radio systems, fiber optics and mobile devices. (Herkimer County currently has radio equipment installed on an Oneida County tower in the Town of Steuben).

· Technology that permits emergency call processing and dispatching to take place virtually, but remain local to reflect the needs of the public and first responders. 

Additionally, Herkimer County would benefit from services that are now only available in Oneida County, including -

· 911 texting ability.

· The local first responder communication notification system known as IamResponding. 

· The Nurse Navigation program which diverts non-emergency calls to licensed nurses to ease the burden on dispatch services.

· A backup 911 Center.

The release touts that bringing "Herkimer County into Oneida County’s 911 system would be supported by monthly phone, cell phone and VOIP surcharges and shared services grants would be available through the New York State."

Oneida County absorbed the 911 systems of the City of Rome in 1997, the Town of New Hartford in 2010 and the City of Utica in 2012.

Such a merger would be the first of its kind in New York State.

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