Saturday, November 1, 2014

City Dispatch Service Retained by Chardon Council
May 12, 2014 by Ann Wishart | No Comments

“Obviously there’s more to consolidation than (saving) $200,000 a year.” – Phil King

Despite recommendations from a performance audit, Chardon City Council agreed last Thursday not to disband the dispatch service at the city police department.

The city finance committee studied the idea and decided the savings would not be sufficient to make up for the other duties dispatchers handle, said Councilman Dan Meleski.

The city employees coordinate calls for emergency services, but they also deal with a very long list of chores the city would have to hand off to other employees or hire someone to take care of them, he said.

“If we consolidate (with the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office dispatch), where would those duties fall?” he asked.

Councilman Andy Blackley, also a finance committee member, said the cost of dispatch services in other communities range from $17,500 for the smallest to $465,000 for the City of Painesville’s service.

Although the county sheriff’s department has offered to dispatch for the city for no cost, Blackley was not confident the price would remain so low. The city gets a lot of calls for police, fire or emergency medical services each day, he said.

“Once the county saw the volume of calls, (the service) might not be free any more,” Blackley said.

The cost to the city for one full-time and one part-time dispatcher is about $90,000 per year, Meleski said, giving one example of the other duties they perform.

Police officers, upon arresting someone for OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs), bring the suspect to the police department and a dispatcher is a witness to the processing, he said.

If no dispatcher was on duty, the arresting officer would have to have a patrolman come in to serve as a witness until the suspect could be transported to the Geauga County Safety Center, Meleski said.

“It’s an officer safety issue,” said Police Chief Tim McKenna, adding the arresting officer has to arrange to have the suspect’s vehicle towed as well.

The second patrolman would be off the street while assisting the arresting officer with the matter, he said.

“Now, we provide back-up to the county system” if there is a breakdown or overload on its dispatch service, Blackley said.

If the city did contract with the sheriff’s office for dispatch services and, later, the county decided to charge the city for dispatching, the city might consider re-establishing its own dispatch service.

However, Blackley said re-creating the current city dispatch would be massively expensive.

Additionally, the city has received letters and emails opposing the consolidation of the services, Blackley said.

With the increase in substance abuse, it is important the city maintain its own dispatch service to ensure speedy response times, he added.

McKenna said consolidation with the sheriff’s department would have been a big undertaking and all his people were nervous about how it would work.

“Obviously there’s more to consolidation than (saving) $200,000 a year,” said Mayor Phil King, adding he is glad council didn’t jump at consolidation without considering all the possible issues.

No action was required since the service stands as usual, he said.

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