The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 29, 2013

Commissioners revisit dispatch consolidation

State wants only three answering cities per county

By CARL E. FEATHER - cfeather@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON —  Commissioners on Monday formally rolled out their plan to seek a consultant to study consolidating dispatching services.

Commissioners Daniel Claypool and Joe Moroski headed the meeting, which pulled together fire and police chiefs along with village, township and municipality officials who have a stake in the process. Also attending was John Leutz, a senior policy analyst with the County Commissioners Association of Ohio. Leutz told the group that the Ohio Legislature wants to reduce the 350 public answering safety points to an average of three per county.

Ashtabula County has six PSAPs with 11 PSAP terminals. The PSAPs are located at the sheriff’s department; Ashtabula, Conneaut and Geneva city police; and Saybrook and Ashtabula townships fire departments. There are 11 positions associated with those six PSAP locations.

Leutz said that the dilemma facing many PSAPs across the state is the equipment and personnel at the smaller PSAPs are under utilized.

A state group charged with studying options, the Statewide Emergency Services Internet Protocol Steering Committee, must make its report to the legislature in May. The legislature wants the transformation to take place in the next four years.

Commissioners for years have talked about the need to consolidate the county’s PSAPs, but the political hot potato has been tossed from board to board. Issues include dealing with the union contracts of the various dispatching centers, incompatibility among equipment and space for a central dispatch center. But Claypool said the time has come to at least investigate the options. Commissioner Peggy Carlo has been a proponent of centralized dispatching, but was unable to attend the meeting due to illness.

Commissioners want to know if operational efficiencies and cost savings could be achieved by consolidating the PSAPs. The study will look at the type and cost of equipment that would have to be purchased in order to create a central dispatching center accessible to not only law enforcement and firefighting entities, but also schools, hospitals, the county engineer, emergency management and others that respond to 9-1-1 calls.

Sheriff William Johnson said he’s all for the study, but pointed out that the cost of equipment plus personnel won’t necessarily mean a cost savings for the villages and municipalities that contract with a central dispatch.

Claypool said he wants input from those entities and asked for volunteers to serve on a review committee.

Cost of the study could approach $100,000. Claypool said the board has not determined how the county will fund the project.

A study completed in late 2011 for Wayne County and several municipalities presented at least three options; one of them suggested that two counties team up with the cities to provide a central dispatching arrangement. Trumbull County has been mentioned as a good partner for Ashtabula in that type of effort.

Indiana has already done a statewide revamping of its public safety dispatching system, and several other states are already involved in the process.

More than a dozen vendors have been identified as possible consultants for doing the work for Ashtabula County. A  meeting for prospective vendors is 10 a.m. Feb. 4.