Facing huge costs to convert their emergency dispatch centers to the latest needed technology, several Greene County localities are moving to abandon the centers and merge.
These moves are expected to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The impetus for the change is the the conversion of 9-1-1 centers to the Multi-Agency Radio Communications System, or MARCS. MARCS allows all levels of fire, police and EMS — local, state and national — to communicate through a single system.
MARCS dispatch consoles run between $70,000 and $100,000.
The system is to go online Jan. 1.
“MARCS was the right decision from a public safety standpoint,” Beavercreek Police Chief Dennis Evers said. “In an emergency like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, the major stumbling block is communications. This is good for our citizens because it provides response effectively, efficiently and quicker.”
The county has five full-service dispatch centers and one secondary system in Yellow Springs.
By 2018, the state has mandated it will help fund only three of the centers.
Xenia approached Bellbrook, Sugarcreek Twp. and Yellow Springs — who dispatches village police after 9-1-1 calls are forwarded from Xenia — with contracts to take over their dispatch operations.
Barry Tiffany, Sugarcreek administrator, estimates the township would save between $900,000 to $1.1 million over a five-year period. The township will still have to spend $260,000 to replace its emergency radios.
Mark Schlagheck, Bellbrook city manager, estimated $600,000 in savings over the same period.
Bellbrook and Sugarcreek have held a number of joint meetings and unanimously voted to move forward with negotiations. Both localities will be holding public meetings later this month.
The Yellow Springs Village Council has tabled the proposal. Village Manager Laura Curlis estimates the village would save around $200,000 over five years.
“It’s a decision the council may take up during the next budgeting process that starts in September,” she said.
Fairborn and Beavercreek have been holding “very initial discussions”, said Mike Cornell, the Beavercreek city manager. Fairborn City Manager Deborah McDonnell called the concept of merging dispatch centers “intriguing if it can save taxpayers money.”
County commissioners voted 2-1 earlier this month to continue dispatching emergency calls for the sheriff’s office through Xenia dispatch, effectively ending, for now, any move toward a single county dispatch.
Commissioner Tom Koogler, the dissenting vote, said he has been working with city, village and township officials to see if countywide dispatch would save taxpayers money as it would need less equipment and personnel.
“The numbers showed we would save just shy of $1 million dollars,” Koogler said.
Koogler characterized the movement as a county-wide effort to save the taxpayers money and said he was disappointed the other commissioners — Bob Glaser and Alan Anderson — didn’t give the idea a chance.
Both Glaser and Anderson said they were opposed to a single-site dispatch center, preferring a two-site solution. Glaser said two were needed to back up each other in the event that one was out of service because of a natural disaster or catastrophe.
“In an emergency you can’t afford to have that kind of situation,” Glaser said.
Xenia Police Chief Randy Persons said perhaps waiting to move to a central dispatch system wasn’t a bad idea.
“Switching to MARCS and bringing together all the dispatch centers is a lot to chew off in three to six months,” he said.