GREENVILLE — About 100 concerned citizens sat in to contribute to the work session the Greenville City Council provided Thursday at the Greenville K-8 Facility, regarding emergency communication operations within the city of Greenville.
Information was provided during the meeting regarding upcoming changes to 911 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and a discussion regarding the Darke County Commissioner’s proposal to offer emergency communications (dispatch) at no cost to the city. Currently the City of Greenville’s Police Department and the county Sheriff maintain separate PSAP systems. The work session came out of previous meetings and discussions about the change from city to county.
Citizens came forward to offer their thoughts on Darke County’s 9-1-1 and dispatch center plans during Greenville City Council’s May 2 meeting. Prior to the council meeting, the Darke County Board of Commissioners announced a proposal to move to a single PSAP 9-1-1 system and a unified emergency dispatch operated through the Darke County Sheriff’s Office and paid for by the county. The proposal came on the heels of a recommendation by the 9-1-1 Advisory Board on April 12, which voted 2 to 1 in favor of the move. 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.
Greenville Safety/Service Director Curt Garrison addressed the commissioners at the board’s April 27 meeting, asking how a county-run dispatch would be funded and if it would require additional funding from the city as Greenville has a high call volume by comparison. He provided council with a summary of the questions and answers from that meeting. Greenville currently maintains its own dispatch, accepting landline calls only. Cellphone calls within Greenville city limits are dispatched to the city’s emergency services from the county. The county’s proposal for a centrally located center has met resistance from some within the city, which led up to the June 8 work session.
City Council President John Burkett thanked everyone for coming to the June 8 work session, as he said the public’s input was important in weighing this decision. Greenville Safety/Service Director Garrison played a power point and two videos showcasing the values of keeping the system in the city. Some of the main points consisted of the following: there is an Emergency Communications Operator at the Greenville Police Department (GPD) 24/7, 365 days per year; the GPD has a grievance procedure in place to handle dispatcher mistakes; and how comprehensive their records are from dispatched calls that help with investigations. Following the presentations, many spoke out about the issue, including: City of Greenville Council members, Greenville Police, 911 and Fire department employees, Greenville Mayor Steve Willman, the Darke County Sheriff’s Office, Greenville City Council members and other members of the community. Questions arose about why the Darke County Commissioners were not present.
Commission Chairman Mike Rhoades said in phone interview,”The City Council was given all of the numbers as to how we were planning on funding the extra cost for the dispatchers. As far as the three Commissioners were concerned, the people in the city needed to convince the City Council to do away with or keep the dispatch. We are not telling them they have to do it and there is no time line. The offer still stands. This is not a hostile take over. We offered this as a goodwill gesture with no strings attached.”
Some of the questions aimed at the Darke Darke County Commissioners involved the proposal to offer emergency communications (dispatch) at no cost to the city, such as Greenville resident Jeannie Anderson.
“What is going through my mind is we need to get the funding for this,” she said. “Where are we going to get this money. They are saying it’s going to be free? I don’t understand. Someone needs to explain it to the average person.”
Retired Fire Chief from the City of Greenville Fire Department Mark Wolf said after 28 years he was pretty familiar with the situation. He said this change from city to county has been discussed several times.
“We talked about the Recall System and the fact that it is mission – critical for the Fire Department. That means we have to have it. At that meeting, the county said we cannot fulfill that and the concept was abandoned, for that being one of the reasons. Darke County Sheriff Toby Spencer said the Sheriff’s Office is not interested in taking peoples’ jobs. He said members of City Council approached the Sheriff’s Office and asked if it could do the job.
“Yes we can do the job,” Sheriff Spencer said. “It has never been us against them or them against us. I think there has been some that has taken that attitude, and rightfully that is kind of upsetting. We are only here to try to provide a service to all the citizens, not just the city of Greenville, but the county as a whole and give them a quality service with the best that we possibly can.
“I have been in the Sheriff’s office for more than 40 years, and every few years this topic arises,” he said. “Not once in my career, has the Sheriffs Office gone to the city begging for their work. We don’t need the work. We have plenty to do on our own. Our situation is, there is a multitude of monies that are going to have to be spent in the near future by both entities – the county and the city. My only concern is those monies go to a proper place to get the proper service to all the citizens of Darke county. My contention has always been that everybody pays taxes – why should we charge more? Will there have a to be a tax increase? That’s not for me to decide. I don’t provide the money. There has been some say that this is a hostile take over. We are only offering the service. All the dispatchers: Greenville and my dispatchers – everybody needs the respect of everybody. I guarantee you right now, I wouldn’t walk in that dispatch room and try to set down and do their job, it is beyond me. They do a fantastic job – both entities. Do we need two different ones? That is for all of you to decide.”
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4354. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.
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