Officials in Sandusky and other local communities are giving good early reviews to a new study on merging county dispatch operations.
A county committee that's examining a dispatch merger met Friday to discuss the study, released earlier this week by RCC Consultants, the private consulting firm Erie County Commissioners hired to do the research.
The report recommends merging the separate dispatch operations in Sandusky, Perkins Township, Huron, Margaretta and the sheriff's office into a single, combined operation.
Sandusky's fire chief, Mike Meinzer, said officials in Sandusky believe the new report is a good one.
When county commissioner Tom Ferrell, chairman of the dispatch committee, mentioned Margaretta is "about ready" to go toward a combined dispatch operation, Meinzer replied, "Sandusky is about ready, too."
It will be up to elected officials "to lead this thing," Meinzer said.
Several officials at the meeting said that while the study appears to offer cost savings, what's really important is that a merged dispatch system will offer better safety. If a fire is reported, or if someone is choking to death, the dispatcher can send the nearest unit without having to worry about jurisdictions, they said.
And when one dispatch site handles calls, "mutual aid is done automatically," observed Terry Lyons, the Erie County sheriff.
Grants may be available to help cover the costs of conversion, several committee members said.
Because the various jurisdictions will no longer compete against each other, "the grant opportunities are going to increase," Meinzer said.
Ferrell said he's talked to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, and believes she would try to help a dispatch merger.
Lyons said the report is "very comprehensive" and validates officials who said it made sense to wait and do a study before making decisions on dispatching.
"This will give us a good tool, rather than just guessing and flying by the seat of our pants," he said.
The RCC report is a rough draft, and committee members said they had noticed some mistakes and had some questions.
They decided to provide RCC a little more time to get the questions answered and to produce a final report.
The panel's new timetable calls for local public safety officials to read the report and submit their questions and comments by e-mail to the county administrator, Mike Bixler, by Friday.
RCC then will have two weeks to produce a final report, which will be discussed during a public meeting in early September.
Huron's police chief, Randy Glovinsky, said he's still reading the report, but he already found a big mistake.
The report says Huron is opposed to merging its dispatch operations, but that's not true, he said. Huron officials have raised concerns that must be answered, but they also realize the potential of a merger, the chief said.
"At no point in time did the City of Huron or myself say we're against this," he said.
Glovinsky said he's pleased by the potential for improving service with joint dispatch, but isn't convinced yet it would save money. He said Huron's city manager and city council will decide whether the city will participate in a merger of dispatch services.
Ferrell said he questions the report's recommendation that the Perkins Police Department dispatch system should be a backup for a merged system. If the dispatch services are merged at the sheriff's department, Perkins might be too close, because it and sheriff's office could be taken out by the same tornado, he said.
Commissioner Bill Monaghan agreed, suggesting that Huron or Margaretta would make more sense for a backup site.