- Michael Cooper Staff Writer
A proposal that could save more than $1 million in taxpayer money with the creation of a countywide dispatch center for emergency responders moved a step forward this week.
County commissioners voted in favor of supporting the creation of the dispatch center and a council of governments, which would give equal voting rights on the proposal to cities, townships and villages.
County commissioner Rick Lohnes said Champaign County used a similar process — which gave a voice to all participating local governments — when it created its countywide dispatch in 2006. Montgomery and Miami Counties also have countywide dispatch centers.
Lohnes has sent a letter to six townships and New Carlisle asking for resolutions of support, and hopes to have about eight townships involved before opening the dispatch center.
Lohnes said German, Green, Pike and Mad River townships are still deciding whether or not to participate in the new operation. German and Pike each have their own dispatchers, while Mad River and Enon also have their own dispatchers who provide services for Green Twp.
Clark County and the city each spend more than $1.2 million per year on separate 911 centers. Clark county has 16 full-time staffers and five part-timers with a personnel budget of $1.2 million per year. Springfield has 24 full-time staff members with a yearly budget of $1.5 million.
Springfield receives approximately 74,000 calls per year, while Clark County handles approximately 73,000 calls per year.
Lohnes said new technology will increase safety and efficiency, while the combination of services can also reduce costs.
“Common sense says it will cost less,” Lohnes said.
City manager Jim Bodenmiller said he’s pleased the county moved forward with the resolution of support, and said the city commission is solidly behind the combined effort.
“We continue to work very closely with them,” Bodenmiller said. “It’s going to take some time obviously. It’s something you want to move carefully and do a good job with it. 911 communications are critical, and you have to be careful with planning.”
The council won’t become official until county and city’s legal teams complete writing bylaws. They’ll also will work on funding and operations issues as well.
“We have to carefully work through the details,” Bodenmiller said.
Lohnes said the resolutions of support from other government entities in Clark County will allow them to apply for a Local Government Innovation Fund grant from the Ohio Department of Development in September.
The countywide dispatch center could be located at the Safety Services Center, 1515 W. High St., the former Downs Army Reserve Center which the city purchased earlier this year.
County commissioner John Detrick said local leaders are “on the verge” of a breakthrough which he estimated could save taxpayers a considerable amount of money.
“This has been something that’s been talked about for 15 years,” John Detrick said. “It’s a real classic example of city, county, township and village cooperation. The bottom line is this will save between $1 million and $1.5 million dollars.”
Lohnes said there are several areas throughout the county where dispatching can be confusing, and depends on where the calls come in and the type of phone used for the emergency call.
“The goal is to make it more efficient, accurate and quicker,” Lohnes said.
Mike Robbins, the president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations, told commissioners his organization fully supports the countywide dispatch center, and expects to write a letter of support.
“I think it’s a great deal,” Robbins said.