County moves ahead with dispatch study

PERKINS TWP. Erie County Commissioners are moving forward with their plan to study emergency dispatc
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

Erie County Commissioners are moving forward with their plan to study emergency dispatching options.

The commissioners voted 2-0 Thursday to ask County Administrator Mike Bixler to prepare a request for proposals to hire a consultant to study the feasibility of a countywide emergency dispatch system.

Bixler said he plans to have the request ready when commissioners meet again Thursday so they can authorize him to go out for bids.

The study is expected to cost $40,000 to $60,000, he said.

Commissioners Bill Monaghan and Nancy McKeen approved the study 2-0. The chairman of the commissioners, Tom Ferrell, had left the meeting by then because he had another commitment.

Bixler brought the matter up after reporting on responses from local governments, who were polled on whether they want the county to proceed with the study.

According to a tally compiled by the county, Sandusky, Huron, Bay View, Milan, Florence Township, Groton Township, Huron Township, Margaretta Township, Perkins Township and Vermilion Township indicated they want a study to go forward.

Milan Township and Oxford Township said no, and other communities didn't respond.

Monaghan said he noticed that proponents of a Perkins-Sandusky consolidated dispatch said their system will save about $660,000.

He said he would like to see a document that spells out the savings.

"It's easy to throw a number out and look good," he said.

Sandusky police Chief Kim Nuesse, a proponent of a Perkins-Sandusky dispatch, was disappointed to learn the county was moving forward without having at the table all the groups that might be affected.

"Everybody in the county is in the study whether they want to be or not," she said. "I don't see this moving forward if they continue on this path."

The request for proposals spells out what the county is asking a consultant to do in assessing dispatch services.

The wording is based on those previously used by other counties in the state to solicit feasibility studies. It was modified and molded into its current form by a group of elected and emergency service officials including: Ferrell, Bixler, Huron Police Chief Randy Glovinsky, Sheriff Terry Lyons and Sandusky Fire Chief Mike Meinzer.

Between Thursday morning's meeting and next Thursday, Bixler plans to sit down with the group and any other interested parties to finalize a system to rank the proposals returned by consultants.

The draft request has undergone several changes, including the deletion of two examples of proposed structures. The two examples deleted were "central dispatch under an independent Council of Government or other appointed authority."

The examples that remain include:

*A public safety dispatch structure as currently configured in Erie County

* A regional or district system with multiple dispatch centers

* A consolidated dispatch system under one management to be configured as needed

* A single consolidated dispatch center

* Co-locations of dispatch centers

* The incorporation of an Emergency Operations Center

* Computer-aided dispatch, emergency medical dispatch, database/records system and alerting systems

* Or any combination of the above mentioned

Bixler said the option of a council of governance or dispatch service ran by any other appointed authority was eliminated so it didn't limit the study to any specific dispatch setup.

"I don't see the harm in leaving the council of governance approach in the options," Nuesse said. "A study is going to look at all the possibilities, so why not include that one as well if you're really going to give everyone a fair and objective study that lays out all the options? Why not include all the options from the beginning?"

The study would also include an analysis of cost, proposed staffing levels and a comparison of possible configurations. The proposal calls for the completion of a study within six months of the contract being awarded to the winning company.

Ferrell did not return calls seeking comment.