Clark County commissioners will move forward with public meetings to discuss a proposed property tax assessment that would pay for a new countywide 9-1-1 dispatch center.
The meetings will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Springview Government Center, 3130 E. Main St., and at 10 a.m. Dec. 6 at the fifth floor public chamber of the Clark County Offices, 50 E. Columbia St.
Last week county commissioners pulled a resolution that would have begun the public process to increase taxes for property owners in Clark County by about $60 a year to pay for a state-of-the-art combined 9-1-1 dispatch center in 2019.
The proposed flat fee, parcel assessment would likely save Springfield and the county about $1.5 million each in general fund tax dollars annually. The townships and the city of New Carlisle would also save money on dispatching annually, Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said.
No final decisions about the tax assessment have been made, he said, and the county is still studying the possible tax assessment.
“We’re agreeing to listen to what the public has to say about it,” Lohnes said.
Emergency operations will improve if all jurisdictions are on the same system, Lohnes has said, allowing emergency calls to go to one location. Currently 9-1-1 calls go to different dispatch centers based on where callers are located and what type of phone they’re using, which can lead to delays in response times as calls are transferred between the city and county.
After the public meetings on the proposed assessment, Lohnes said the county has 30 days to make a decision on whether to implement it.
In the past six months, the city and several townships have increased taxes, he said. The city also recently elected two new city commissioners who might have different ideas about how to fund the dispatch center, he said.
“We will see what kind of feedback we get from folks at this meeting,” Lohnes said.
Everyone agrees a countywide 9-1-1 dispatch is needed, Clark County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt said, but it’s a matter of how to pay for it.
County commissioners delayed the decision on moving forward with the public meetings because it didn’t want to influence other local tax issues, Lohnes said. They went ahead with setting this week.
The new dispatch center could cost up to $4 million per year, including renovations, security and new equipment, he said.
The county might have to contribute up to $140,000 to pay for operations and another $250,000 in general fund money in 2019 to pay debt for new equipment, depending on the amount of the assessment, officials said.
The amount of the assessment is still to be determined, but might be in the range of about $60 annually or about $5 per month. Commissioners also discussed up to $70 per parcel.
Any tract of land that’s been improved, such as a building, driveway or structure, will be assessed the same fee, leaders said. Clark County currently has about 59,500 improved parcels.
County commissioners can approve the assessment later without putting the tax increase on the ballot per Ohio law, they have said.
The county will also move its dispatchers out of the Clark County Jail building to the Springview Government Center next year to provide more space for upgraded equipment, Lohnes has said. It will allow those upgrades to be purchased for one system, he said.
Combined, the two dispatch centers currently cost about $3 million to operate annually with about 35 full-time employees that field about 150,000 calls annually.
September 2013: Casino money might help pay for combined dispatch
March 2014: County dispatch to save German Twp. $30K
September 2015: Combined 9-1-1 system on hold for Springfield, Clark County
September 2016: New Clark County 11 system will soon allow emergency texts
January of 2017: Clark County, Springfield still mulling combined dispatch center
By the numbers
$3 million: Money Clark County and Springfield currently spend on dispatching annually combined.
55,500: Estimated number of improved parcels in Clark County.
150,000: Estimated number of calls handled annually by Springfield and Clark County dispatchers combined.
Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has tracked the city of Springfield and Clark County’s efforts to create a combined 9-1-1 emergency dispatch center for more than five years, including stories digging into the cost and call volumes.