The proposal to combine dispatch operations for the Sandusky and Perkins Township police departments offers immediate advantages across a spectrum of needs: save taxpayer dollars; improve service; provide the fire departments in both communities full-time attention; opportunity to extend services to other communities.
It's a plan that offers the potential to reduce expenses by more than $500,000 during the first 12 months in operation. It also offers continuing annualized savings of at least $140,000 in payroll; state-of-the-art report management; and the ability to pinpoint the locations of callers seeking emergency assistance using cell phones.
Sandusky police Chief Kim Nuesse and Perkins Township Chief Tim McClung, who head up the two agencies that have the heaviest dispatch loads in the county, developed the plan and both say it offers opportunity in the future to provide services to other communities in a cost-efficient manner using a council of governments approach to regional dispatch.
County commissioners are looking at a different way forward, however, and they hope to get enough support from area police and fire departments to move forward with a study to determine the advantages or disadvantages of a countywide dispatch center controlled by the sheriff.
We believe Sandusky and Perkins can move forward with their plan and the county study should go forward if there is enough solid support for it. There's no reason to put the Sandusky-Perkins plan on hold.
But commissioners should make sure the study they want looks at both county-controlled centralized dispatch option as well as the COG option supported by the chiefs and others.
The specifications commissioners have for the study currently deletes all reference to the COG option from the equation. If there is to be study it should be one that is open to reasonable conclusions that might not fit what commissioners envision.
It will be two years before any real action happens on regionalizing dispatch services if commissioners are successful in their efforts. We urge them to support the efforts in Sandusky and Perkins to reduce costs now and find a compromise that will let both options go forward.
We also urge Sandusky city commissioners and Perkins Township trustees to carefully examine the proposal from Nuesse and McClung. Embrace it, change it, further develop it, or reject it, if necessary. But don't let commissioners put the kibosh on a plan that appears to have merit just because they want to go in a different direction.