Clark County commissioners will decide this week whether they will move forward with public meetings to discuss a tax assessment designed to pay for a new countywide 9-1-1 dispatch center.
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.
Commissioners delayed the decision because they didn’t want to influence other local tax issues, County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said. It’s also possible if new city commissioners are voted into office this week, he said, the city of Springfield could agree to pay for a portion of the dispatch center in the future.
“I’d rather do this correctly than fast,” Lohnes said. “I don’t know if this would muddy the waters with people thinking about (the proposed tax assessment).”
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, Lohnes said.
The new dispatch center could cost up to $4 million per year, including renovations, security and new equipment, he said.
However 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, Clark County Administrator Jenny Hutchinson said.
The amount of the assessment is still to be determined, Lohnes said, but might be in the range of about $60 annually or about $5 per month. Commissioners also discussed up to $70 per parcel.
“(The dispatch center) is totally worth it,” Clark County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt said. “I’m comfortable with hearing what people have to say about that figure. … The ability to call 9-1-1 is the most basic service we can provide.”
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.
The county is expected to hire a consultant to oversee the transition from the current separate dispatch centers to a new countywide operation later this year who will provide more concrete details on the project, she said.
County commissioners can approve the assessment later this year without putting the tax increase on the ballot, per Ohio law, leaders said.
Emergency operations will improve if all jurisdictions are on the same system, Lohnes said, allowing for emergency calls to go to one location. Currently 9-1-1 calls go to different dispatchers 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.
“I’m more driven by mission,” Lohnes said. “This 9-1-1 system is so bad … Something needs to be done. It’s a very important issue.”
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 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.
The dispatch center will be of service for all residents of Clark County, Flax Wilt said, including people who live in downtown Springfield or in the far corners of the townships.
“They deserve to have the same level of dispatch service,” she said.
Commissioners sometimes have to make tough decisions to make the county a safer and better place to live, McGlothin said.
Clark County may receive up to $6 million from the state over the next two years to soften the blow of the elimination of sales taxes from Medicaid-funded organizations, which may be used to purchase new equipment for the dispatch center, Lohnes said.
Commissioner previously scheduled public meetings to discuss the assessment at 10 a.m. Nov. 22 at the county offices fifth floor public chamber, 50 E. Columbia St., and at 6 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Springview Government Center, 3130 E. Main St., conference room 151. If they decide not to move forward with the process, the meetings will be cancelled.
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
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.
By the numbers
$3 million: Amount of 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.