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Director named for new Schenectady County dispatch center

Director named for new Schenectady County dispatch center

County officials have tapped a retired communications director from the Albany Police Department to

County officials have tapped a retired communications director from the Albany Police Department to head the new unified communications center now under construction in Rotterdam.

Legislators are expected to approve the hiring of Jeffrey Cunningham as the director of the county’s centralized dispatch facility during their meeting this evening. Once hired, Cunningham will earn an annual salary of $88,000.

Cunningham, who worked for the Albany Police Department for 32 years, was among 16 candidates for the position overseeing the facility that will soon unify all of the county’s emergency dispatchers under one roof. The county’s municipal oversight committee unanimously selected him after interviewing nine applicants for the newly created position, according to a memo from county Manager Kathleen Rooney.

“In addition to his many years of hands-on dispatching experience, Mr. Cunningham also has significant public safety communications technology and equipment knowledge and experience,” she wrote in a memo to legislators Friday. “Mr. Cunningham brings management, budget development and oversight experience with him.”

Calls to Anthony Jasenski, the chairman of the Legislature’s Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee, were not returned Monday. County spokesman Joe McQueen also could not be reached for comment Monday.

In Albany, Cunningham was responsible for overseeing the public safety systems for the city police and coordinating efforts with vendors for the department’s communications division. He retired in June 2011 and is now earning a pension of $40,308, according to public records.

Crews broke ground earlier this year on 4,230-square-foot building on Hamburg Street that will house the new unified communications center. The county has leased the facility at a cost of $309,252 over 20 years, provided the county can start working in the building this month and it is completed no later than January 2014.

In 2009, Schenectady County was awarded a $1 million state grant to create a consolidated emergency dispatch center by 2011. The new center was to create one central location to dispatch the 25 fire departments, seven police agencies and three emergency medical services operating in the county.

The effort was slowed after several towns expressed skepticism about the plan. County officials successfully gained extensions for the grant until a final plan was reached in July 2012.

Based on the 2009 data, the bulk of emergency calls come from the city — 72 percent. Glenville had the highest level of calls in the suburban towns, with 11 percent.

Annually, centralized dispatch is expected to receive about 75,000 wireless calls and 291,000 calls from land lines.

County municipalities spent roughly $4.3 million on dispatch operational expenses in 2008, with the city of Schenectady paying the lion’s share. The unified communications center is expected to reduce that cost to $3.9 million during its first year of operation and then by another $150,000 once optimal staffing is reached.

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