Township Update on 911 Consolidation

Two of your Jerusalem Township Trustees—Mark Sattler and David Bench—attended several meetings on the Board of Lucas County Commissioners’ proposal to merge all Regional 911 Operations into a single Consolidated Operation. Below is the information to be shared with you, our Township residents:

The Commissioners and their Director of Public Safety, Matt Heyrman claim that a consolidated operation will yield economies of scale that would result in an operating savings of 33%. Each jurisdiction would be expected to pay its share of the operating costs based on % of incidents.

Jerusalem currently pays approximately $12,000 annually to Oregon for Fire Dispatch Services. Non-emergency dispatch costs are not currently charged back to our Township by the Lucas County Sheriff Department.

Under the proposed Consolidated 911 Dispatch plan, Jerusalem Township’s share of the cost (with the 33% consolidation savings) would be $31,265.52—a cost increase of almost $20,000 per year. The cost increase would be temporarily subsidized by the Lucas County Commissioners (out of the anticipated economy of scale savings) and phased in over three years with the full cost occurring in 2023.

If the Jurisdictions achieve a majority vote to defeat the proposed 911 consolidation, Matt Heyrman pointed out that the Lucas County County Commissioners have the authority to charge the full cost (with NO economy of scale savings) of non-emergency Sheriff Dispatch services back to each jurisdiction. If this were to occur, Jerusalem Township would be expected to bear its full cost of dispatch services totaling $46,868.95 annually—a cost increase of almost $35,000 per year.

In order to determine whether the Merged and Consolidated 911 Operations proposal is to be approved and implemented, a temporary five-member Board will be established consisting of:

  • President of the Board of County Commissioners (Pete Gerkin)
  • CEO of the largest municipality (City of Toledo Mayor)
  • Member of largest Board of Township Trustees (Sylvania Township)
  • Member of a Board of Township Trustees selected by all other Townships (Andy Glenn of Springfield Township)
  • CEO of a municipal corporation selected by majority of municipal corporations (TBD)

This temporary five-member board is expected to be appointed and convened for the vote in late 2019. If approved, full consolidation will be achieved in approximately 12 months.

There have been many versions of the proposed 911 Consolidation plan circulated. The full 44 page plan (August 2, 2019 version) has been posted on the Jerusalem Township web site. The following hyperlink will take you to this plan: Lucas County 911 Consolidation Proposal

The various Townships recently came together to brief Andy Glenn (our designated representive for all of the townships other than Sylvania which has its own representative on the board). At this meeting, there were a number of concerns expressed. Listed below are the concerns expressed by the various individuals attending the meeting:

  • Consistent training: A concern was expressed that with the proposed consolidation, the large new department may face budget pressures in the future. If so, training may suffer. The speaker pointed out that training and education is often the first area affected by budget cuts. Cuts in training could negatively affect the abilities and performance of the team members.
  • Another individual pointed out that the 911 Consolidation proposal cites a minimum staffing plan (please see page 14 of the DRAFT Briefing). He expressed concern whether this minimum staffing level would result in the best service for our communities?
  • The proposed cost allocation charge-back to each jurisdiction will disproportionately impact small communities (please see page 16 of the DRAFT Briefing). Townships have no local income tax and no way to raise the funds to pay this new assessment except to raise property taxes.
  • One speaker urged that an acceptable plan should appeal to all parties involved. Instead, this plan appears to coerce communities to participate by threatening them with higher cost charge-backs if the consolidation proposal is not approved.
  • Many people attending expressed concern that this consolidation is being rushed too fast.
  • One speaker pointed out that if Lucas County stops running their PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) and hands off all dispatching to Toledo, they will be the only County Sheriff in Ohio that doesn’t run their own PSAP. The speaker warned against agreeing to such an arrangement. Further if this proposal is approved and implemented, Lucas County would be the ONLY county in the State of Ohio in which all 911 calls go through a single site. The speaker was highly concerned because the Toledo dispatcher site already places emergency calls on hold when the dispatchers are busy. He stated that this is already a public safety issue and is likely to become an even bigger one.
  • Others expressed concent that the Consolidated 911 service expenses have been underestimated (HR, legal, accounting, and employee health care insurance) and may be more costly than anticipated. The cost estimates do not reflect current dispatch wages in the suburbs. All communities will share in this added cost.
  • A number of individuals were concerned that the cost allocation method of the 911 Consolidation proposal is structured to “buy the votes” of selected entities. Once the phase-in is complete, the City of Toledo will realize a cost savings of $733,164 per year. Sylvania Township will see a cost savings of $745,916 per year. Lucas County and Lucas County EMS costs will go down by $3,111,720. All townships (except for Sylvania Township) will experience increased costs as a result of the 911 Consolidation.
  • Another speaker advised that Dayton’s experience post-consolidation was very bad. His Dayton contacts had counseled to avoid consolidation at all costs.
  • Another individual said he did not believe this consolidation would improve public safety. He explained that adding layers results in longer response times.
  • Another speaker shared that the experiences of other consolidated dispatch centers like Wood County and Montgomery County was a staff turnover rate of 20% with burnout, loss of experience, and continuous hiring, orientation, and new employee training. Please note that these other consolidated dispatch centers were voluntary consolidations in which each community could opt in or operate their own PSAP. The Lucas County model would be 100% mandatory participation if approved.
  • Another individual stated that this consolidation shifts the risk of future cost increases off Lucas County and on to the smaller communities (who have the least ability to absorb the costs.)
  • One speaker explained that this consolidation would force more officers on to a single radio channel. He expressed concern that this could overload the radio frequency and interfere with timely communication. Another individual explained that in his community, both police and fire share the same frequency and it seems to work OK. There was continued discussion as to whether the large scale of the Lucas County proposed consolidation would benefit or hinder timely communication.
  • Another speaker argued that this is but one piece of a larger plan. He warned that by proceeding with this 911 Consolidation without considering other potential consolidations, the overall plan is being implemented “piecemeal.” He urged a broader approach to strategic planning including dispatch, fire services, etc.
  • Many individuals urged that it would be much better for all concerned to take the time to work out an arrangement that is acceptable to all parties rather than to force the smaller communities to comply by threatening them with even greater cost increases if the proposed consolidation is not implemented.

Please feel free to contact any of your Township Trustees if you have any questions or concerns. As always, our contact information is available on the Township Web Site.

Thank you,

-Mark Sattler