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Posted: 01/15/14


Above, the 50-foot by 20-foot video wall in the Communications and Technology Center (COMTEC) displays mapping, TV channels and traffic camera feeds. Below, Macomb County officials cut the ribbon in celebration of the opening of COMTEC on Dec. 20. The center houses four county entities and police, fire and emergency service dispatch.

(Observer photos by Chris Gray)

County opens new
communications center

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      What was once housed in a small room has now become a communications center with a 50-foot by 20-foot video wall and 24 emergency workstations.
       The Macomb County Communications and Technology Center (COMTEC) opened on Dec. 20, boasting dispatch for multiple entities and the ability to monitor county roads in real time.
       The 25,000 square foot center combines four county agencies, including the Department of Roads, Emergency Management, Information Technology (IT) and Macomb County Sheriff's Office as well as local police, fire and emergency medical services.
       County Executive Mark Hackel was one of many officials on hand for the center's opening. He said when he was with the sheriff's office he had rotary phones, typewriters and reel-to-reel tapes in a small, smoky room for dispatching.
       Now, however, he said the county has a $13.5 million center that utilizes the latest technology and was finished on time and under budget.
       "I called it Christmas come early for not just ourselves, but I think for the citizens of Macomb County," he said. "There is no other facility in like and similar size with this video wall that we have here in the entire North America or the entire world that we're aware of at this point in time."
       The standout feature is the video wall, made up of 54 70-inch monitors that can display more than 50 different options, whether it's mapping, TV stations or Department of Roads cameras.
       The center also features the new E-911 phone system, two emergency generators, eight traffic monitoring positions and a state-of-the-art IT data center.
       The center's four departments are manned with just over 90 employees, with 40 for IT and 36 for the sheriff's office. Hackel said they will take more than half a billion calls each year.
       "They now have at their fingertips the capability to really help provide a better public service to the people," Hackel said.
       COMTEC has proven useful with the recent snowstorms, providing a view of streets that are most in need of snow removal or emergency services. Bob Hoepfner, director of the Department of Roads, said as of now 38 cameras monitor intersections, but the number is expected to increase to 300 in the coming two years.
       "We would like to be able to monitor all of our signalized intersections," he said. "I think (COMTEC) will allow us to more efficiently and safely move traffic around the county."
       County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said his department was working on a plan to move his dispatch to the center. COMTEC will handle the sheriff's office as well as the Sterling Heights and Clinton Township police departments.
       "The whole gamut of public safety is now going to be in good hands because of this facility," he said.
       Emergency Management Director Vicki Wolber will oversee the site. She said part of the idea behind COMTEC was to bring different entities together for better responses.
       "Being able to have the same operational picture when an incident is going on or the weather is moving in, this is what is great about it," she said.
       Around $9 million of the $13.5 million budget<around 70 percent<was from federal grant dollars and other non-county sources.
       District 7 County Commissioner Don Brown said the center will help save taxpayers money because dispatch services can all be located in one facility as opposed to being handled by local municipalities.
       "The opportunities exist for people in the north end of the county to participate and join this system," he said. "Each community has got to make its own decision based on the financials."
       One such community could be Washington Township. Brian Tyrell, Washington Township Fire Department assistant chief, said the department is outgrowing its internal dispatch.
       "We definitely have to look at that in the future and see how we can improve upon that," he said.
       Businesses that helped build the new center included Motor City Electric, Partners in Architecture and The Daily Company.
      


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