Friday, October 31, 2014

Chardon City Finance Committee to Study Dispatch Service
March 13, 2014 by Ann Wishart | No Comments

Chardon Police Chief Tim McKenna urged the city finance committee Tuesday to thoroughly study all aspects of the proposal to turn the city's dispatch serviceā€¦

Chardon Police Chief Tim McKenna urged the city finance committee Tuesday to thoroughly study all aspects of the proposal to turn the city’s dispatch service over to Geauga County Sheriff’s Office.

“We need to take this at a snail’s pace,” he said. “If you do migrate to the sheriff’s office, you’ll never come back.”

Councilman Andy Blackley said the proposal, on the surface, sounds good, but there may be hidden costs.

“The idea of saving $282,000 a year would be nice,” he said.

In addition to operating costs, the city would save on training, equipment and program updates for the dispatch service, Blackley said.

But the four full-time and seven part-time dispatchers take care of a lot of other chores in the police department that aren’t on the dispatcher job description, he said.

“If we take advantage of this (offer), will the sheriff’s department do any administrative duties?” Blackley asked, pointing to a list in front of him compiled by Lt. Troy Duncan.

McKenna said at least one employee probably would need to be retained just to keep the records current.

Chester Township and the Village of Middlefield have closed their dispatch centers and are getting dispatch services from the sheriff, but McKenna said that comparison is not the same.

“Our demographics are a little different,” he said, because the municipal court and the city administration are tied into the dispatch service at some level.

McKenna said dispatchers have taken on a number of additional duties over the years. He started with the department as a dispatcher in 1978, partly to help officers if they had to struggle with an unwilling prisoner, the chief said.

Council also needs to consider possible impacts if the city does turn its dispatch over to the county, Blackley said.

Currently, the service is being offered by the sheriff for free, but that could change as costs increase and budgets tighten, he said.

City Administrator Randy Sharpe said the city couldn’t expect to get the service without charge forever.

Councilman Dan Meleski said the dispatchers provide an invaluable link for the community.

“The dispatcher is a lifeline for firemen and policemen … for officers working the road,” he said.

McKenna said he couldn’t give the committee an exact cost for revamping the dispatch center, but the number of calls handled has been growing steadily by 250 to 300 calls per year.

Meleski said if the city wants to maintain a dispatch center, perhaps it could be expanded to include other communities that would pay for the service.

Sharpe said other communities in Lake and Trumbull counties should be asked if they are interested in contracting for Chardon’s dispatch service.

Also, the committee needs to know the potential cost of retaining a dispatcher or hiring another administrative clerk and how much other counties charge communities that use their dispatch services before making a recommendation to the council, he said.

CORRECTION: The previous version of this story reported that Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland will retire in 2016. McClelland will be up for re-election in 2016.

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