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Published: Wednesday, 4/14/2004

Bedford officials dispute pay share for central dispatch

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - Monroe County officials called unwarranted concerns expressed last week by members of the Bedford Township board that the county's most heavily populated municipality will pay more than its fair share for a new $10 million central dispatch system.

County administrator Charlie Londo, who appeared before Bedford Township board members last week with Central Dispatch Director Ron Berns, bristled at suggestions that township taxpayers were being asked to pay for more than they will receive.

"[Bedford] Township isn't contributing a nickel to the county; this is a fee that people are paying for a service that they're getting. To make it sound like they're bailing out the rest of the county is just not true. If you go to see a movie, you pay a fee; and that's all we're doing. We're providing a

service," Mr. Londo said.

Although there are more than 98,600 phone lines in Monroe County, according to SBC Ameritech records, the county is estimating that it will only collect on only 80 percent of them because of the large number of businesses with multiple-line switches and those lines that belong to tax-exempt institutions.

"The phone companies told us that you have to take amount of phones you think you have, then knock 20 percent off the top," to reasonably estimate funding levels if an additional surcharge is imposed, Mr. Berns said.

Mr. Londo said he and other county officials have a difficult time getting a proper handle on just how much revenue would be generated if the surcharge is passed. The only thing that's certain, he said, is that those revenues are likely to continue to decline as cell phones continue to proliferate and traditional land lines decline.

"It's going to be less,'' Mr. Londo said. "That's why we caution that those lines are going down, and those counts are typically going to be less than what we see on the charts.''

The county has estimated that the additional 8 percent surcharge, if approved by voters in August, would generate about $189,500 monthly, or about $2.3 million each year. However, implementation of the new system, a new dispatch center, and ongoing maintenance will leave the county with about $6.3 million to pay off, not including a mandatory upgrade of the VHF paging system used to alert volunteer firefighters that they are needed.

But Mr. Londo dismissed the argument made by Bedford Township trustees Dennis Steinman and Arnold Jennings that Bedford Township might end up "subsidizing'' Central Dispatch for the county's smaller municipalities.

"The people are paying for a service. It's not something the community is contributing to the county, it's something that we provide to them,'' the county administrator said. "We're all one community.''

He said Bedford Township is the only local government so far to raise the issue of "getting their money's worth'' from a new Central Dispatch setup.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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