GREENVILLE — The Darke County Board of Commissioners’ plan to move to a single 9-1-1 dispatch center was questioned by a representative from the City of Greenville during the board’s Monday meeting.
Greenville Safety/Service Director Curt Garrison asked a series of questions regarding the board’s resolution, combined with a decision by the Darke County 9-1-1 Advisory Committee on April 12, to move to a single PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) system within the county. In addition to the 9-1-1 system operated by the county, Greenville currently maintains its own dispatch.
Garrison questioned where the county would find funding for the planned upgrades to the system as well as ongoing funding to maintain it. Further, he questioned how the county would fund upgrades and ongoing subscriptions for the used MARCS radios being acquired from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and those for the county’s fire and EMS services funded through grant money from the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
It is estimated moving to a single 9-1-1 dispatch system will cost the county approximately $200,000 more per year. Garrison sought to address concerns that 9-1-1 services for Greenville citizens might suffer if the county moves to a single dispatch.
“The City of Greenville has a very large call volume,” said Garrison. “What assurance, other than the fact it’s the way we’ve done it with everybody else, can you give us that the city would not be facing charges anytime in the future? If the City of Greenville were to incur costs, would the entire county at that point incur the same costs?”
“If we do have an issue, everybody’s going to pay, not just you guys, it’ll be everybody,” said Commissioner Mike Rhoades. “With the MARCS system coming on like it is, with everything needing to be upgraded, but if we had to it would be everybody, it wouldn’t be just you guys.”
Rhoades said the county plans to fund both the PSAP upgrades and the MARCS radio system by freeing up funds through the sale of the Darke County Home to the Tri-County Board of Mental Health. The Tri-County Board plans to transform the home into a drug-recovery facility.
Arrangements have already been made to rehome the 20 or so residents currently living there according to Rhoades. He said the county pays $500,000 per year to operate the facility, money which can be diverted to other county costs.
Garrison also asked if the county will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with all county agencies, including Greenville, as it regards the maintenance, administration and subscription fees of the MARCS radios donated by the ODNR.
“It would be the sheriff’s recommendation that if we do distribute those ODNR radios that we have an MOU to account for the inventory of the radios and what individual agencies they go to,” said Darke County Sheriff Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker, who has helped spearhead the MARCS upgrade. “During that MOU we can address some of those costs, which would be installation costs, programming costs, tuning costs. I would recommend we engage in an MOU that spells that out.”
“As you distribute these radios, is the county committed to paying those upfront costs?” Garrison asked, who estimated the costs of installation could run $85,000 to $100,000.
“We discussed that it was likely the county commissioners would have to cover those expenses because some of the agencies couldn’t afford to do it,” said Whittaker.
“We will address it,” added Rhoades, who said he hoped to see a countywide income tax levy on the ballot this November to help fund ongoing expenses for county communications. No specifics on the levy were given.
As for the grants to county fire departments for MARCS radio equipment, Garrison was told the fire departments are responsible for their ongoing expenses, but that the State Fire Marshal has signaled its willingness to continue to award grants toward yearly expenses.