There's agreement among members of the joint facility committee studying the pros and cons of a combined police headquarters for the Perkins and Sandusky police departments.
And one of those areas of agreement is that there's still more work to be done.
“It's a much more complex issue than just dollars and cents,” said Dick Brady, a Sandusky resident on the committee who is serving as a spokesman for the group.
The committee was formed by request of both Sandusky city commissioners and Perkins Township trustees in January and is made up of four residents from each community. In addition to Brady, Sandusky residents Gene Kidwell, Janice Warner and Brenda Alexander and Perkins Township residents Jim Smith, Dick Schuster, Pat Shenigo and trustee candidate Don Bass serve on the committee.
Smith, the Perkins spokesman, said the work has been more intense than he initially anticipated.
“There have been a lot of inquiries and opinions from groups other than those we are serving,” Smith said. “It's come to involve a lot of personalities other than those we are representing.”
The opinions and inquiries from across the county have been useful, he said.
“It's healthy to get a lot of input on a decision. We are trying to be conscientious in our task,” Smith said. “Opinions can be good or bad, but we need to listen to all views.”
Both the city and township face tightening budgets due to decreased or flat revenues and increasing health and benefit costs for employees. City and township leaders encouraged a review of the options for a combined facility and the committee has met regularly since it was formed.
Sandusky police Chief Kim Nuesse and Perkins Township police Chief Tim McClung have endorsed the concept of a combined facility as a cost-saving measure that also would serve to enhance training and services for both departments. Estimates from the chiefs show combining dispatch services would save nearly $500,000 initially and annualized savings of at least $140,000 in initial payroll costs.
Dispatch services would also be upgraded so cell phone users requesting emergency assistance could be easily located.
Erie County Commissioner Tom Ferrell has said the two departments should not combine dispatch services because that task should be under the authority of Sheriff Terry Lyons, although Lyons has not expressed the same reservations.
Commissioners have requested bids for a study designed to show how emergency dispatch services countywide could be combined. The bids are expected later this month, but the process to build a regional center is estimated to take at least several years.
Brady said the joint facility committee supports the county's regional dispatch study, but that does not preclude the efforts already under way.
“Dispatch services are just one spoke in the wheel,” he said. “Some people view this as adversarial. The committee does not see it that way. We're encouraging the region-wide effort to progress if it can progress.”
Smith said the committee has been thorough and is reviewing every viewpoint expressed on the matter.
“We explore each one. That's important,” he said. “This certainly won't be a rubber-stamp group.”
“Our recommendations will not be based solely on (money factors),” Brady said. “There are synergies between the two departments that you can't put a dollar amount to. There are potential savings that there is no way to quantify.”
It will be several weeks before the joint committee is ready to make formal recommendations on the proposal, the men said, and those recommendations will be presented to both government bodies.
“When this dinner is cooked we're going to get it out of the oven,” Brady said.