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Published: Thursday, 10/3/2002

Lake will form own police, fire dispatch

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lake Township will form its own office for police and fire dispatching services and take Rossford as a customer, officials said.

The move means Walbridge, the two communities' current provider of dispatching services, will be left on its own to shoulder the expenses of a 24-hour-a-day operation costing more than $20,000 per month.

Ron Sims, a Lake Township trustee, said he was “extending the olive branch with the offer” and urged officials on both sides to try to reach a contract.

But Walbridge officials didn't take them up on it.

Lake Township, Rossford, and Walbridge have been bickering over the cost of dispatching services for months. The tension increased in spring when Walbridge gave its customers a six-month termination notice, accusing them of not responding to proposed higher fees.

For their part, Lake Township and Rossford officials said they were waiting for a detailed explanation of the rising costs.

After learning that the Wood County Sheriff's Office would charge more than Walbridge to provide dispatching, they reluctantly agreed last month to pay $9,415 a month, up from $7,760. Then, at their Tuesday meeting, the trustees decided to go their own way by soliciting bids for dispatching services from an outside contractor. They authorized going forward, expecting to spend about $75,000 for equipment.

The squabble over fees was only part of the reason the township decided to strike out on its own, Chief Danny LaDuke said. “We've been wanting this for a long time. With Lake Township growing so much, we should have our own dispatching,” the chief said. The township expects to have its own program operating in about 120 days.

The agreement under which Walbridge provides dispatching services dates to the late 1970s, with Rossford joining a few years later. In recent times, Walbridge always has had contracts with neighboring communities to support the service financially. Village officials couldn't say last night whether the village could afford to go it alone.

Walbridge employs four full-time dispatchers who are paid about $13 an hour and three part-time dispatchers.

Lake Township officials urged Walbridge's dispatchers to apply for Lake's openings for dispatchers, with Mr. Sims saying afterward that pay for dispatchers would be comparable to what the village offers.

The exchanges between village and township officials were generally cordial, until Council President Jerry Eversman began delving into some higher operating costs for dispatching the township hasn't helped offset. “If we turn off [dispatching] service Oct. 31, we are hurting Walbridge people, we're hurting Lake Township people,” Mr. Eversman said.

Chief LaDuke shot back: “You can't just stop it. You can't blackmail the township.”

Rossford Administrator Vince Langevin said his city planned to start its own dispatching operation in three to five years and save money in the meantime by going with the township's service. He said the discussed price Rossford would pay is about $8,700 a month.

Blade staff writer Jack Baessler contributed to this report.



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