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Published: Thursday, 1/29/2004

Lake Twp. dispatch center praised

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A year after a much-debated relocation of emergency dispatch services from Walbridge to Lake Township, officials say the services are working out wonderfully.

“It is going very, very well. We have no problems whatsoever,” Lake Township police Chief Danny LaDuke said.

The township paid LifeStar, a nonprofit ambulance service owned by Mercy Health Partners, about $185,000 over the past year to manage the pay and scheduling for dispatch employees.

The dispatch center, now located in the township s police station, is staffed by at least one dispatcher at all times. Four evenings a week, there are two dispatchers on duty, Chief LaDuke said.

He would like to have two dispatchers always working, but he said the additional staffing costs would be too great a financial burden for the township right now.

The dispatch center serves the township, Walbridge, and Rossford. Before last year s switch, Walbridge operated the center serving all three municipalities. After debates over price increases for the services, the township decided to open its own dispatch center and eventually convinced Rossford and Walbridge to join them.

Former dispatchers had to reapply for jobs with LifeStar, Chief LaDuke said. The company certified its employees in emergency service dispatching.

“They re some of the first certified dispatchers in Wood County,” he said. “They can tell people how to do CPR or what steps to take if someone has taken poison. They talk to callers over the phone to get them through until paramedics arrive.”

Officials from Rossford, Walbridge, and the township meet about four times a year to discuss the dispatch center.

“We ve established a very good working relationship,” Walbridge Mayor Dan Wilczynski said. “Everything is going just perfectly.”

Rossford paid about $8,700 monthly and Walbridge contributed about $4,500 every month for the dispatch service.

Costs for hiring LifeStar will increase by about 3 percent this year because of pay raises and inflation, Chief LaDuke said.

He said the township spent almost $50,000 more than it expected to set up the dispatch center, but was able to cover the $125,000 to $150,000 in total costs with money from the township s police, fire, and emergency service budgets.

“We just had to watch our pennies,” he said.

Later this spring, the dispatch center plans to upgrade with a $9,000 transmitter that will allow dispatchers to speak with law enforcement agencies statewide.

Things are not going so smoothly with the township s police forces. The township trustees approved a new three-year contract for its police officers earlier this month, but the police union rejected the contract last week, said Melanie Bowen, chairman of the Board of Trustees. She said the issue may go into arbitration.



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