The City of Springfield has approved the start of union negotiations with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office in an effort to move one step closer in combining dispatch services in the area.
The move could eventually lead to Clark County providing dispatch services for the city.
Due to issues that can cause emergency calls to be transferred to either city or county dispatchers, both entities have engaged in talks about a combined dispatch center for some time.
Talks regarding the combination of dispatch services and the transfer of city personnel have picked back up as Springfield commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday. That document will allow the start of union negations with the Sheriff’s office regarding how former city employees will be incorporated.
If negations lead to a contract, essentially the city will be contracting with the sheriff’s office to provide dispatch services to the city.
City officials say the agreement between the two entities is the first in a three-step process. That also includes the contract negotiation phase between the Sheriff’s office and the union representing its dispatchers.
The last step is to develop a contract between the city and county for dispatching and communication services.
With the process entering the negotiation phase, it marks the closest point for both entities in regards of combining those dispatch services that would be under the control of the sheriff’s office.
“We had a difficult discussion and they showed the flexibility that was needed to move this forward. I think as a result of this we will have an operation that will operate more efficiently and more effectively for all the people of Clark County, including Springfield.” said Springfield Commissioner Dave Estrop during Tuesday’s virtual commissioner meeting.
He said by having dispatch services under one roof it would save the city an estimated $250,000 a year.
Talks between the city and the county regarding those dispatch services have stalled in recent years with issues regarding personnel.
“I take very seriously the fact that if they are not treated fairly and we lose them, we will lose some really skilled people that are important who are police and firefighters,” said Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland during Tuesday’s meeting.
“I still have to be convinced completely but I am wiling to vote for the first step of the process,” he added.
A break down in those conversations in 2016 lead the county to move forward with building a dispatch center of its own a year later.
The roughly $5 million new dispatch center, located on Home Road, will likely be completed in November and is slated to be operational starting next year due to the length of time needed to install new equipment.
Talks regarding combining dispatch services picked back up last year but broke down again in November due to the county’s offer to combine would have dropped some city dispatcher’s pay among other things, Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck told the Springfield News-Sun at the time.
Another dispute between the city and county regarding personnel broke down talks this month. It occurred after a first reading of the memorandum of understanding by Springfield commissioners during their meeting on June 30.
Copeland said that the city feared that their dispatchers would not be treated fairly if transferred over, stating issues such as the seniority of their staff members not being acknowledged.
He said those are discussions that will need to be had during the negotiation phase and that some of those concerns have been discussed with the county and the sheriff’s office.
Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said that “If we can get everyone in one building, doing the same stuff for the same people, making things better, that’s the most important thing.”
“So what this says is they now have agreed to sit down and negotiate a contract. Because this is not combining, this is not a joint venture. This is the city getting out of the dispatch business and contracting with the Sheriff’s office. This is not a consolidation. That ship left in 2016,” he added.
Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett said in a news release that “I truly believe this will make a big difference in the community with the response to emergency situations. We at the Sheriff’s Office are looking forward to working with the city dispatchers. I believe that the combination of city and county dispatchers will be a great asset to the citizens of Clark County.”
Mike McDorman, the president of the Chamber of Greater Springfield, said that moving dispatch out of Springfield City Government was the number one priority highlighted in a performance audit that was completed in 2016 by both the city and the chamber.
“The Chamber is excited about this development, and the opportunity that is now before us to finally get combined dispatch accomplished for the betterment of our citizens,” he said.
Facts & Figures
$250,000: Amount of money City of Springfield projects it could save by combining dispatch services with Clark County
$5 million: The cost of the new combined 911 Dispatch Center in Clark County
November 2020: Construction and renovation of 911 center expected to be completed