A planned investment next year in the dispatching system operated by the Wood County Sheriff’s Department was a factor in the county commissioners’ decision to join in discussions with entities in the northern part of the county on forming a regional emergency dispatching format.
The commissioners invited representatives of municipalities and townships throughout the county to their Aug. 30 meeting to discuss the pros and cons of a county-wide dispatching system.
“There is a significant piece of equipment in the sheriff’s dispatching system that must be replaced,” Andrew Kalmar, county administrator, said last week. “This item will be replaced sometime in 2013, and it did spur discussion about what other entities are spending across the county, and ultimately how much taxpayer money could be saved by providing this service on a regional basis.”
According to the sheriff’s website, the department’s communication division is staffed by 14 full-time deputies who also dispatch for 13 police agencies and 27 fire and emergency medical service departments in the county as well as activate the county’s severe weather alert system and host the E-9-1-1 system, handling an average of 532 emergency cell phone calls monthly.
In his 2011 department report, Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn states the division answered 37,062 9-1-1 calls and dispatched 5,344 fire calls, 5,062 EMS calls, and 24,462 calls to deputies. There were 4,794 calls dispatched to village police departments and park rangers. The division also entered 2,508 warrants and 294 protection orders into state and national databases.
Commissioners Tim Brown and James Carter noted during the meeting the state is pushing for local governments to consolidate services if cost savings can be realized.
In response to a question from Bowling Green Mayor Richard Edwards about what other similar-sized counties are doing, sheriff Wasylyshyn said Hamilton and Crawford counties have split their dispatching into two locations.
The sheriff said that instead of the 10 entities now operating 24-hours a day in Wood County, a system with only one or two sites could save tax dollars, according to minutes of the meeting.
This summer, the cities of Rossford and Northwood, Village of Walbridge, and Lake Township received a grant of $87,740 through the state’s Local Government Innovation Fund program for a feasibility study of merging dispatching services for the four, which had already been meeting informally for more than a year to discuss if a merger is practical.
The grant is being used to retain RCC Radio Consultants, Inc. to assess the township’s dispatching center on Lemoyne Road and Northwood’s dispatching office at the city police department on Wales Road.
Poggemeyer Design Group is also being retained to assist in the possible formation of a council of governments that would oversee a merged system.
Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer, who initiated the local discussions, said it’s important for any merged dispatching system – be it county-wide or smaller – to be under a council of government format with representatives of each participating entity having a seat on the council.
“We feel very strongly it needs to be facilitated with a council of governments,” he said, adding one possible way could include having elected officials oversee financial matters and uniformed personnel to oversee operations.
The RCC study is expected to be complete by the end of the year, chief Hummer said, and it will be shared with departments county-wide. He attended the meeting with the commissioners last month.
Currently, Rossford and Walbridge contract with Lake Township for 24-hour 9-1-1 dispatch service. Calls are dispatched at a facility on Lemoyne Road that had housed an Ohio State Highway Patrol Post. The township purchased the site several years ago.
Northwood handles its own emergency dispatching service at the Wales Road facility.
Chief Hummer said if the merged system is a success other neighboring entities may decide to join.
The commissioners said they’d be willing to host another discussion early next year.