Thursday, August 3, 2017

County Commissioners "Clear the Air" on 911 Dispatch Situation and the Proposed November Tax Levy

In the last few months, there has been a tremendous amount of misleading information concerning the proposal and the operation of the dispatch/9-1-1 emergency service that was discussed between the County and the City. During this time, there have been many opinions formed based upon half information, tidbits of fact, and emotions that has led to tension between those involved. Some of the information that was shared was incorrect and in some cases was not corrected. In an effort to present what transpired, the County Commissioners, respectfully submit the following information to clear the air. We will discuss three major areas; who initiated this last round of discussions; what this means to the citizens of the city and Darke County; and what the tax levy proposed actually involves.

The joining of services has been an ongoing conversation between the city council and the commissioners off and on for many years. Whenever the county has been approached on this topic, it has been by individuals from the city. The latest discussion came about when the commission board passed a resolution to recommend our representative on the 9-1-1 committee to go down to one public safety answering point (PSAP); and included within the resolution was an offer to provide free dispatching to the City of Greenville as provided to the other forty plus agencies throughout the county. At that point, it was up to the City at their discretion whether to consider the offer. The obvious reason for the City to want to combine services has, and will continue to be, safety and cost savings to the citizens. The county has always thought it made sense due to the savings of time and tax dollars. For whatever reason, these discussions have never been able to yield an agreement. The Commissioners were asked to provide an offer in good faith, which we did, and at no time did we ever threaten, coerce, or try to force the city into joining. The offer was always in their court to consider or enter into with the county; and if they wanted to reach a deal that was fine, if not that is all right too!

With recent decisions made by the City Council, this means the City will maintain their dispatch services for fire and police, and the county will continue dispatching for all other entities in the County. What changes will occur for the citizens of Greenville? Now that the County has only one PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point), as a citizen, you will not see any change in service. When implemented all calls will go through the county dispatch (both cell and landlines) to dispatch respectively or transferred to the City dispatch for fire and police within the city limits. During this process, one fact that wasn’t well known was the City’s PSAP was the property of the County; even now if the City chooses to purchase their own PSAP equipment, all calls will route through the county as previously stated. The reason for the County 9-1-1 Committee (consisting of the Mayor of the largest city (Greenville), the Chairman of the largest Township (Greenville Twp.), and the Chairman of the County Commissioners) decided on one PSAP is simple; in 2012, Ohio’s Emergency Services Internet Protocol Network (ESInet) started preparing for the States Next Generation 911 system. Within this preparation process, the State wanted to eliminate unnecessary PSAP’S to save taxpayer money and redundancy. With that in mind, Darke County has no need for two PSAP’S, and since this was an extra County expense, the choice was decided to only operate and maintain one PSAP thus eliminating the need to house one in the City of Greenville.

The levy the County Commissioners are putting on the ballot for November of this year came recommended by the Communication Commission board. The board consists of members of the fire departments, police departments, the Sheriff’s office, Darke County EMA, Rescue squad services, members of the community including a mayor’s representative, Commissioners, and 3 representatives from the City of Greenville (Fire, Police, and the city safety service director, who all voted to recommend this levy be put on the ballot). These services, responders, and citizens saw the need for upgrading to the MARCS system, and upgrade all aspects of our communication systems for these vital services. Our emergency responder’s safety and the safety of our citizens is our first priority. Their safety and ours will be improved with the enhanced ability to communicate freely between departments in emergencies. Communication across County and State lines is vital as we border other counties and Indiana who have already gone to this new system, or are in the process. Our VHF system is reaching the end of its useful life, and we had the choice of spending millions of dollars to fix this old system; which would mean we could not communicate with other counties and Indiana, or do a complete switch to MARCS and have the ability to work with adjoining services. We chose the latter. The .45 mill levy will generate $572,350 dollars a year. That will allow us to do the upgrades needed now, and to set money aside in this fund for future upgrades, continuing license and maintenance fees, and future replacement of this system. If passed in November, this levy would go into a separate fund that would only allow for use in communication equipment, services, and fees. If approved, the levy would never exceed $572,350 unless upgrades are made to your property. Therefore, if you have not made changes to your home, your tax portion for this levy will stay the same. We feel this levy should be enough to do all we need. Our emergency services need the assurance the levy we are requesting for communication services and equipment will support them as they do their important jobs.


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