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Published: Wednesday, 7/6/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Talks ongoing on unified dispatch center

Rossford, Lake Twp., Walbridge mull expansion

BY PAYTON WILLEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

After 10 years of joint operation, Rossford, Lake Township, and Walbridge are mulling a unified dispatch center by adding other communities, such as Northwood.

Rossford City Administrator Ed Ciecka said they are looking into "a regional Wood County dispatch center."

"We're studying the cost and benefits," Mr. Ciecka said. "Obviously there have been communities that have undergone in the past number of years some belt tightening, and the coordination and consolidation of services is one which one looks at."

Lake Township's Police Chief and Administrator Mark Hummer said the joint dispatch center reached out to area communities, and Northwood showed most interest.

"We can do it together for less … and provide a more seamless service to our residents," he said.

Mr. Hummer said the communities are trying to work out a council of governments that would govern the operation of the dispatch center through a fiscal and operational board.

"What we're trying to work on now is the governance of it, which we've got pretty well hammered out," Mr. Hummer said. "We'll get into the operational logistics, and work out the nuts-and-bolts details."

The question of whether several dispatchers will lose their jobs is not certain.

"By adding more calls, you may have to increase employment in one center and decrease employment in another," Mr. Ciecka said. "But you don't want to consolidate and have a lesser service."

Mr. Hummer said he hopes to preserve dispatcher jobs.

"We're still in the process of determining our personnel needs. Hopefully we would be able to maintain their work staff and ours, both full and part time," Mr. Hummer said.

Northwood City Administrator Dennis Recker said discussions of a unified dispatch center are ongoing.

Although he said that this idea "could be the forerunner of even greater regional collaboration which could lead to a joint fire district," there have been no signatory commitments at this point and those involved are looking at all of the operational aspects before making any decisions.

Mr. Ciecka said it seems intuitive to those discussing the matter that they can provide more efficient and cost effective dispatch service by bringing the communities together. However, it's the lack of time that staff members have to dedicate to the project that has slowed progress.

"We don't have a lot of staffing capabilities to staff the study portion of it," Mr. Ciecka said. "We have talked, and the communities in northern Wood County have met. It's an idea that's been existing and talked about at least three years."

Mr. Recker said that the community is energetically pursuing all of the components that will go into a joint dispatching center and although he said it is a small working group and slow going, they are trying to gather as much data as possible.

"We're talking about … where would we locate, what would our staffing requirements be to pick up calls from all communities, and what kind of infrastructure and equipment would be used in supporting it," he said.

Talks occur on the first Tuesday monthly, and include city administrators as well as police and fire chiefs.

Mr. Recker said the joint dispatch center will not go into effect until all information has been gathered and details have been worked out.

As long as there is a realistic expectation of cost savings without a "drop off in quality of service," Mr. Recker said that he feels optimistic.

Contact Payton Willey at: paytonwilley@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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