The City Council took no action following a work session on the possibility of merging city and county dispatching services Monday night, but will seek out more information from the county.
The agenda for the meeting stated that the session would involve discussion concerning a Hamilton County proposal on dispatching. But Mayor John Hawkins said there was actually no proposal to present.
“This is purely me reaching out to see what options we might have with the county,” he said. “At this stage, council wasn’t aware of anything that had gone on. That’s what the work session is for — so you guys can get some information.”
City Manager Jeff Sheridan this wasn’t the first time the merger issue has been discussed, the last time being 2009.
“At that time, the decision was to continue the city dispatch,” Sheridan said.
Police Chief Shiloh Mork said he had emailed an overview and history on the city dispatch.
“Dispatch with the city has been longstanding since the new jail facility was built in 2004,” Mork said. “Since then, we’ve operated everything but the 9-1-1- system, which was moved to the county.”
Councilman Brian Miller said that there had been a lot of misinformation on social media about Monday’s session.
“The whole point of this meeting was (to get) the information you got for us,” Miller said to Mork. “It’s stuff we need to talk about and get an understanding of what’s feasible and what makes sense and if its financially and logistically a good thing or bad thing.”
Council member Logan Welch said the last email he had seen from the county was that they would like to wait. Sheridan confirmed that the county had twice told him they would like to wait until at least the next fiscal year to consider the idea.
“I think it would be a good idea for our council — the current make up we have today — to get an idea of what we want to do for a couple of reasons. We need to make sure our city staff is comfortable and aware of possible changes that might be coming or even that we are entertaining that idea,” Welch said.
He added that he wanted to get the information out to the public about the duties and services the dispatchers provide the city and citizens.
Council member Katelyn Hartman said she would like to see some more information about the county service such as compatibility of services.
Hawkins said there would be costs for equipment such as radios for officers to be compatible with the county dispatching.
“There would also be other expenses,” he said.
Hawkins also said that there is communications console in the police department that will likely need to be replaced at some point as it is nearly 25 years old.
Mork said that could be replaced under the current system or it could be replaced so that it would be compatible statewide.
Miller also agreed that more information was needed before the discussion could continue.
“I think we’re not doing our job (as a council) if we don’t look at this,” he said.
Welch said that cutting amenities, such as the city dispatching service, wasn’t an optimistic way of moving into the future.
“I think that a choice could be made whether we entertain it in 2021, or whether we kick it down the road, or we don’t even look at it all and put a lot of our tax dollars and support and hope for growth into our public safety sector,” Welch said.
Mork said he understood that there were many factors to consider with the idea of a shared dispatch. But also added that there are people who work for the city who are worried about whether they will have their jobs down the road.
“We’ve already lost one dispatcher,” he said. “I don’t know how many others are looking. We already have officers testing to go other places. It’s much more than dollars and cents. We’re talking about people’s livelihoods now.”
“That’s the reason for having this session. Do we move forward or leave it as it is,” Hawkins said.
Miller said he’s not sure where the rumors are coming from about officers.
“At no point has anyone discussed doing anything with the P.D., only dispatch and only discussing if it was possible –period,” Miller said.
Welch said he was opposed to moving forward with a possible merger.
Hawkins asked Sheridan to reach out to the county and the Board of Supervisors again to see if they would provide information about the dispatch system and services.
View this article as it originally appeared in the Daily Freeman-Journal.
Last modified: December 8, 2020