When you call 911, who will answer? That is the question now being debated throughout Erie County.
Sandusky and Perkins have been talking for some time about combining dispatch facilities to save Sandusky the expense of purchasing new equipment. This proposed joint dispatch system could eventually include other communities, such as Huron and Margaretta Township.
In June the county stepped in, proposing an alternate plan for a county-wide, centralized dispatch run by the Sheriff's office. County commissioners polled local officials to gauge support for a feasibility study into the county-controlled approach.
Here is where local officials stand on the two options:
The approach: A centralized dispatch system overseen by the Sheriff's office would dispatch for police and fire agencies in Erie County. Representatives from the different agencies would form an advisory board to provide input on the center's operation.
The players: Nancy McKeen, Erie County commissioner; Tom Ferrell, Erie County commissioner; Bill Monaghan, Erie County commissioner; Bill Dwelle, Perkins Township trustee; Bob Wolfbrandt, mayor of the Village of Castalia; Bill Hodges, Perkins assistant fire chief
What they have to say:
Nancy McKeen, Erie County commissioner:
"I would hope that (Perkins and Sandusky) would cooperate and try to make (centralized dispatch) one entity. To me it doesn't make sense to have two separate entities."
"It's just common sense to do this. It should be a county-wide service."
"All of the elected officials have to come to the table, and I haven't seen a whole lot of that."
Tom Ferrell, chairman of the Erie County commissioners:
"The (request for proposals) we put out are very broad based and don't limit us to a specific setup. We wanted to look at all the possibilities."
"The big issue of this is funding. The big savings is if it's county-wide."
"We felt to get to this stage the county stepping forward was the way to go."
"There's a lot of tugging and pushing to make sure everyone is heard and gets what is best for their community."
Bill Monaghan, Erie County commissioner:
"If you have Perkins and Sandusky talking, that's just two people. When the county talks you have nine different townships, plus the villages and city to consider so it's going to take a little more time."
"We've got some people that continually see the glass as half empty instead of half full, and instead of focusing on how we can do this are focusing on why it wouldn't work.
Bill Dwelle, Perkins Township trustee:
"Some people are trying to make decisions on things that we don't have any information on. If we're going to do it, let's do it so the entire county can be involved."
"Let's do it right the first time. I do think we need to keep in mind that Sandusky is the largest city and Perkins the largest township, but these two entities in themselves aren't just Erie County," Dwelle said. "Lets find out what plan is going to work out best for everybody."
Bill Hodges, Perkins assistant fire chief:
"We are in favor of the county going ahead with the feasibility study."
Perkins & Sandusky short-term combination with potential future regionalization
The Approach: Sandusky and Perkins could combine their dispatch services by the end of this calendar year and incorporate other agencies to their dispatch services in the future. According to police chiefs Kim Nuesse and Tim McClung, each agency will have representation on a democratically run board that makes decisions for the dispatch center.
The Players: Tim McClung, Perkins chief of police; Kim Nuesse, Sandusky chief of police, Mike Meinzer, Sandusky fire chief; Dave Waddington, Sandusky city commissioner; Dan Kaman, ex officio mayor & Sandusky city commissioner; Dennis Murray, Sandusky city commissioner;
What they have to say:
Dan Kaman, ex officio mayor & Sandusky city commissioner:
“I support all regionalized efforts that are financially feasible.”
“What everyone is losing sight of is Sandusky, Huron and Perkins going together now is a short-term fix that can happen alongside the county doing a study. Right now Sandusky’s equipment is outdated and needs to be replaced.”
“Perkins already has a system that can accept 911 calls. There’s so much capability in their dispatch center that they are the top dog, in my opinion, so it only makes financial sense.”
Dennis Murray, Sandusky city commissioner:
“I have consistently felt that we need to regionalize safety services dispatch as much as we can.”
“My preference would be to see Sandusky, Perkins and Huron — and to the extent they’re interested, Margaretta — get together and combine their dispatch efforts right now,” Murray said.
“I don’t think that in any way forecloses the opportunity to participate in county-wide dispatch later on,” he said. “If the county wants to explore that, I say great, let’s do that. I think that in candor it’s a bit more of a reach and perhaps a little less likely to come about.”
"I would rather achieve 80 percent of the objective (by combining some entities) than none. I’d rather achieve what we can today. “
Dave Waddington, Sandusky City commissioner:
“If we don’t (regionalize) I think eventually we will pay for it in new taxes. We have to come up with something different.”
“I would like to go the route of Perkins-Sandusky first.”
Kim Nuesse, Sandusky police chief:
“What I’m looking at is, in the next six to 12 months we can realistically combine our dispatch — at least Perkins and Sandusky, possibly Huron — and realize some savings to all three communities in the short term.”
“I’m not opposed to a feasibility study. What I’m opposed to is we didn’t have a voice in it. Chief McClung and I didn’t have a voice in it.”
“I was willing to explore this in the most democratic way possible, cooperatively with every community having a voice. That’s what I was behind because I know that that’s the most successful way of getting it done. “
“(Emergency agencies) need a voice in the process. It’s not wise to exclude them and think that you know best and choose for them or force the system upon them.”
“Somehow along the way in January it started becoming very political. Then in June it became so political Tom Ferrell spoke to city commission and decided to hijack the process. There was political pressure put on elected and fire officials to go the other route, and I’m opposed to it.”
“In the economic conditions that we’re in, in Erie County right now, I think it makes senses to see whether consolidation of some services makes sense.”
“What I like about our smaller effort is that there’s immediate cost savings involved in the short- and long-term. It’s taking smaller steps to get to where we might like to be someday with a regional effort.”
Tim McClung, Perkins police chief:
“Combining just makes sense. We have the largest volumes of calls, we border each other and assist each other with mutual aid on a regular basis, and it will solve Sandusky’s immediate expense needs for new equipment.”
“If people are being reluctant about this approach, I hope it is based on fact and not on opinion and personalities.”
Mike Meinzer, Sandusky fire chief:
“I am for a central dispatch for all jurisdictions that want to share funding, capabilities and assistance in events that require a joint response. Each community should have the right to decide what is best for their community.”
“In the short term the concept to establish joint dispatching between Perkins and Sandusky should prove to be a vast change for the better operationally,” he said. “If the decision is made to form a merger between Perkins and Sandusky police, a feasibility study on dispatching should still proceed. A comprehensive study will allow our leaders to make decisions about limited resources based on hard data.”
Tom Pascoe, Perkins Township trustee:
“I want to continue on with the Perkins-Sandusky study before I’m going to jump into the regionalization thing.
On the fence
The approach: At this point, many elected officials, police and fire chiefs across the region don’t have a preference which route is taken for regionalizing Emergency Dispatch Services. Most are interested in pursuing the concept further before selecting a format.
The players: Randy Glovinsky, Huron chief of police; Paul Berlin, Huron fire chief; Dannie Edmon, Sandusky vice-mayor & city commissioner; Terry Lyons, Erie County Sheriff; Ken Majoy, Castalia police chief.
What they have to say:
Terry Lyons, Erie County sheriff:
“Before any approach is taken, a study should be done to determine whether or not it’s feasible.”
“An important factor not being brought up in these talks is the 911 cellular update the county will have to do in the near future. The fewer PSAPs (places where emergency calls are directed by the phone companies) the less the county will have to spend on the upgrade.”
“A good study will show us what is in whose best interest.”
“I am not opposed to Perkins and Sandusky combining their dispatching, but I do think we should look at this for everyone, not just the two entities.”
Dannie Edmon, Sandusky vice mayor & city commissioner:
“There’s a lot of egos, and that’s not good for the general public. There are a lot of questions no matter which way we proceed that need answered: Will it really save us money, and will it really be more efficient? I don’t know yet.”
“My concerns come down to: Can we get our emergency services to someone’s house on time to take care of what needs to be taken care of? I don’t care if that comes as Sandusky and Perkins or countywide. That is the question we need to be asking.”
Craig Stahl, Sandusky city commissioner:
“We need to quickly get together and figure out which direction to go and do it in a unified way. It’s a waste of money and a waste of time to not act quickly and in a unified manner.
“If we can work on it together with the county, let’s do it. If we can’t do that, let’s get together and do it with the group of people.”
“To have two different studies or strategies going is an effective way of wheel spinning.”
Randy Glovinsky, Huron chief of police:
“We are interested, but I’m not interested in which route we take. I’m more interested in knowing whether or not in the end this is going to be a benefit to the citizens.”
“If you’re only doing this for cost savings, then you’re doing it for the wrong reason. It should improve services too.”
Glovinsky is also concerned about the potential culture change within the department if dispatchers are at an off-site location.
“They’re our secretaries, deputy bailiffs. They answer our phones. They’re service people for the community. Because we’re a smaller department, we can still provide that service. A lot of this may go away if we do this differently.”
Paul Berlin, Huron fire chief:
“I support the regionalized efforts, and I think it’s my responsibility to investigate the avenues that are out there. I can’t say that one is better than the other at this point.”
Tom Keimer, Margaretta Township Fire Department chief:
“In a nutshell here’s what everybody wants — a central agency controlled by a director who is governed by a board representing each of the municipalities who gives equal responsibility — that’s what we’re looking for.”
“How can you decide what’s best for the dispatch services and the residents of Erie county if you don’t do a study?”
Robert C. Bickley, mayor of Milan:
“It’s an interesting concept. It can eliminate some of the overlap, and it sounds great bringing communities together, but we are concerned about being lost among the larger entities.”
“I see an advantage to having our own people, but sometimes budgets say let’s go regional.”
“We will support the (county feasibility) survey and see how it turns out.”
Ken Majoy, Castalia chief of police:
“The concept is good. There is a lot of possibilities where it could be beneficial.”
“Obviously, if there would be a cost savings by using Perkins equipment and bringing everyone in, I would be behind that.”
“I think we have to look at all the options.”
“I think ... where you have a central dispatch and everyone is on the same page, it would be beneficial department-wise if everyone is on the same radio frequency.”