Medford officials have set the stage for consolidating the city's 9-1-1 center with Jackson County's by early next year to end confusion over the routing of emergency calls and to improve response time.

Medford officials have set the stage for consolidating the city's 9-1-1 center with Jackson County's by early next year to end confusion over the routing of emergency calls and to improve response time.

"We're going to co-locate," said Medford Police Chief Randy Schoen. "There is no doubt in my mind."

Schoen told Medford City Council members today that because of delays getting a $700,000 federal grant, he may need to tap into a city equipment account to purchase communication equipment for the new 9-1-1 dispatch center being built near the Medford airport. Once the grant comes through, he would reimburse the equipment account.

In November, work began on the $5 million, 15,000-square-foot emergency call center near the intersection of Table Rock and Biddle roads.

The center will replace the dispatch office run by Southern Oregon Regional Communications at the top of the Jackson County Courthouse. Seismic studies of the old building show it would not survive a strong earthquake, which could cut off communication between law enforcement and residents.

With two main dispatch centers, 9-1-1 calls in Medford are sometimes directed to SORC first, which in turn has to transfer the call to Medford's dispatch center. Last year, Medford officers responded to more than 49,000 9-1-1 calls.

Consolidating the dispatch centers has been a source of friction between the county and city for at least 10 years, but recently the mood has changed.

"After watching this thing for a decade, you don't know how nice it feels to see this level of cooperation in existence at this time," said council member Bob Strosser.

During a council study session today, Strosser asked Schoen if Medford police have been involved in the planning of the new 9-1-1 center.

Schoen said the county and city have had a close relationship. "We've been at the table every step of the way," he said. "We've been doing a lot of things that benefit our organization."

Schoen said SORC plans to move into the new building in October, and he anticipates the city will make the move in January or February.

He said the city has in principle decided to go forward with the consolidation, though it hasn't signed off on the idea completely. City officials still want more information about the cost and benefits of consolidation as well as to resolve questions over the length of the lease with the county.

— Damian Mann