GREENVILLE — Darke County’s 9-1-1 Advisory Committee voted 2 to 1 Wednesday to go to a single PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) system within the county.
Greenville Mayor Steve Willman was the lone “no” vote. Greenville Township Trustee Chairman Matt Kolb and Darke County Commissioner Mike Rhoades voted in favor of the measure.
The decision came after an earlier resolution in which the Darke County Board of Commissioners voted to recommend going to a single PSAP system, and as well, to dispatch all law enforcement, EMS and fire services at no additional cost to the townships, villages, and cities in the county. While the committee didn’t recommend the full offer, it did approve the move to a single PSAP.
Currently the City of Greenville’s Police Department and the county sheriff maintain separate PSAP systems.
“We’ve come to the conclusion and the decision here that we’re willing to step up to the plate and offer the service to Greenville for fire and police department along with everybody else in the county,” said Rhoades.
Rhoades noted that the city could continue to own and operate its own PSAP and dispatch, but at the city’s own expense, but said the commissioners hoped to transition to a single PSAP located at the sheriff’s office.
“If they choose they want to dispatch on their own, they can spend the money,” he said.
Rhoades said Greenville currently is projected to spend $495,836 on dispatch salaries in 2017.
“That’s money the city could save and not have to spend,” he said. “You still have your police department and fire department, but all your dispatching will happen [at the sheriff’s office].”
Kolb questioned why the county was willing to cover the cost.
Rhoades said, “With today’s technology and the potential of going to the MARCS radio system, this seemed the appropriate time, because we do not need to have another PSAP for backup.”
Darke County Sheriff Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker said the current system is hampered by redundancy.
“If Greenville no longer had a PSAP, if we had one single PSAP, we would be able to handle three 9-1-1 calls at a given time in that scenario, and a fourth call would still end up down in Preble County or a surrounding county.”
When asked how often a fourth call goes outside the county, 9-1-1 Coordinator Melissa Hawes said she was not sure of the numbers under the current system, but that upcoming state guidelines will require documentation of such beginning in May 2018.
The county currently has “no less than two” dispatchers according to Whittaker, who said the office will add a third dispatcher in anticipation of expected bad weather or other events.
Greenville Police Chief Dennis L. Butts told the committee that his department staffs two dispatchers “75 to 80 percent of the time.” He noted the city will also bring in a third dispatcher as needed.
The county contends that going to a single PSAP system will save the 9-1-1 fund approximately $105,000 to $128,000 in equipment costs and yearly between $9,000 and $11,000 in maintenance fees.
The county also said that transitioning to a single PSAP will require the hiring of four additional dispatchers to join the nine dispatchers and coordinator currently employed. According to the commissioners, though the hiring of four people will cost approximately $200,000, the savings in equipment costs will bring that figure down to $72,000 to $95,000 per year.
“We’re willing if this board agrees to go down to one PSAP, we’re willing to step up and take care of all the needs of the county — total,” said Rhoades.
“Just to take 9-1-1 dispatch services from one to another, without knowing for sure the cost savings or anything is kind of a question for me,” said Willman, who admitted he didn’t feel like he knew enough about the issue.
Willman told The Daily Advocate he voted “no” because he didn’t see a financial benefit in going to a single system, and the city’s dispatchers would likely continue to be employed, possibly in other capacities within the city government.
“I think the biggest thing for the city is we don’t see the savings they’re going to get out of this. The county will have to hire more people,” he said.
In his opinion the city had not received enough information from the county in advance of the committee meeting.
“I really wanted to delay the meeting,” he said. “There is some information we wanted from the county that we didn’t get. It could have made a difference in the vote, perhaps.”
Greenville Safety/Service Director Curt Garrison concurred that the county had not provided the financial numbers to the city prior to the committee meeting.
“We reached out to the county to get that information,” he said. “However, unfortunately, yesterday when we met, not all of that information was readily available. We didn’t have the numbers. Today, sitting down, is the first time we’ve had numbers.”
Garrison also questioned the point of the county spending an extra $72,000.
“Just because they’re going to absorb that, does that make it a good decision?” he said. “The city is willing to absorb the call load from the county, to help them out. We could share in that workload.”
“If you left it as is, there’s no increase for anybody,” he added.
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