Clark County says it could cut Mad River dispatching costs in half

Clark County officials say they can provide Mad River Twp. emergency dispatching at about half the cost the township pays now and could save the township from spending thousands more on equipment upgrades.

Mad River Twp. trustees currently pay about $76,000 annually on emergency dispatching, including salaries for four in-home dispatchers and may spend $40,000 to renovate its fire station to make way for a centralized dispatching center, Fire Chief Tracy Young said.

Equipment upgrades could follow in anticipation of new statewide 9-1-1 technology and operational regulations all emergency dispatch centers will be required to follow.

Mad River Twp. Trustee Kathy Estep said trustees have yet to decide on whether to move forward with renovations or equipment upgrades, saying officials want to review the costs.

“We’re not ready to act on that yet. We don’t want to jump into it too quickly,” Estep said.

But Clark County Sheriff officials say township trustees could pay less than $40,000 annually and Green Twp. would pay less than $10,000 if they contracted with the county, which is working to establish a countywide dispatch center.

Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said he hopes Mad River trustees consider joining the county, saying they could save money and eliminate the need for county dispatchers to transfer callers to a separate dispatch center.

“I’m hoping that through negotiations we can work and try to create a cooperative atmosphere for the good and safety of the taxpayers of Mad River Twp.,” Detrick said.

Young acknowledges that the county can provide the service at a lower price, but outsourcing dispatching operations would cost the township in other ways and force it to make “drastic” changes in how they do business.

“It’s a matter of sacrifice, granted. You could provide a much cheaper service, but you’re going to lose policy control, policy and procedure and technique and that is something that the trustees don’t want to lose control over,” he said.

Young also said the township would lose the Safe and Sound Program in which local dispatchers check on the elderly and people with disabilities and other services dispatchers provide.

Dispatchers also provide administrative duties, live burn consultation, guidance on agricultural burns.

“Our dispatchers do a whole lot more than just talk on the phone and provide radio information,” Young said. “… They provide a whole lot more services than the county is willing to provide. People overlook that. That there are customized services that our township wants and our township needs. That’s what the trustees have been fighting for.”

Many communities have gone to a centralized 9-1-1 system, Detrick said, and Clark County would like to do the same. The county is considering establishing a similar Safe and Sound program for all of Clark County, he said.

Mad River spends about $76,000 on dispatching and currently has five dispatchers, including one who works part-time. Mad River and Green share the cost of their dispatch services in a 70/30 split, with Mad River taking on the most of the costs.

Some of the dispatchers have worked for the township for at least 20 years and know the area well, Mad River Twp. trustees have said.

Young has said moving the dispatchers out of their homes and into a centralized location will lead to cost savings.

“We can’t dispute the fact that right now we’re running on an antiquated platform, but we have plans in place to improve and that’s something we’re willing to do,” he said.

The county simply doesn’t have the right platform for the township, Young said.

Detrick estimates the township will eventually spend about $100,000 on dispatching and the county is prepared to pay for equipment upgrades.

“To me it’s absolutely ludicrous to even compare an independent system from a financial and safety standpoint. The point that they’ve made that they have local control is good, but local control comes at a high price,” Detrick said.

Miami County’s communication center was established in 1989 and Champaign County established a countywide dispatch center in 2006. Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center launched in 2009, but some suburban communities have withdrawn and joined smaller dispatch centers.

German Twp. had paid $54,000 and Pike Twp. $60,000 a year to run their own dispatching services before they first signed a contract with the county in 2014.

German Twp.’s current contract with the county is about $27,000 and Pike Twp.’s about $14,600

James Davidson, president of the Pike Twp. trustees, said the township has saved money and are pleased with the county’s services.

But he said Pike Twp. leaders still have some issues that need to be addressed, mostly procedural changes.

“We certainly saved a lot of money. We didn’t do it because we weren’t unhappy with our own dispatchers. We did it because of budgetary constraints,” Davidson said. “The big picture is we get dispatched correctly and we go to the right place. There are some details that are different that we’re still working through.”

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