Preparedness & Recovery

Butler County Sheriff to Take Over 911 Dispatch for Oxford, Ohio

Beginning New Years Day, when Oxford residents dial 911, a county dispatcher rather than Oxford Police will be answering the calls.

by Denise G. Callahan, Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio / November 11, 2015

The city of Oxford is the latest jurisdiction to switch emergency 911 dispatching to the Butler County sheriff, a move that saves the city money and comports with a state law mandating dispatch center consolidation.

Beginning New Years Day when Oxford residents dial 911, a county dispatcher rather than Oxford Police will be answering the calls. City Manager Doug Elliott said he is expecting a cost savings of about $50,000. The city will not be dismissing the seven dispatchers who currently work in the college town.

"We are going to restructure our operation so that we can continue to provide some service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at the police division," he said. "Our operation now is just under $1 million and we are going to be paying them $336,000 for this service in the first year. With the restructuring and this contract and the fact we're keeping some of our employees but expanding their duties ... the savings might be as much as $50,000 or more."

The contract price will go up five percent in 2017 to $352,800 and $370,440 the next year. After that, increases will be according to the consumer price index.

Hamilton, which was staring down a $5 million budget shortfall in 2014 projected the police department could save around $500,000 by merging with the county. That was one reason to consolidate the service in late 2013. But Director of Public Safety Scott Scrimizzi said the merger was also to comply with a state law.

"There were a lot of reasons why we did what we did," he said. "It was both, there was no question somebody had to step to the plate, we're getting killed on local government funding going down every year. When you look at consolidating services and saving taxpayers money this was a no brainer for me. "

The law that passed in 2012 said that jurisdictions with multiple Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) had to shave their centers down to four in 2016 and three in 2018 or risk losing half its wireless 911 and Next Generation 911 state funding, or about $400,000.

Technically, Butler County had a total of nine dispatch centers, including the county, Fairfield, Middletown and West Chester Twp., before Hamilton and now Oxford gave theirs up. Those nine centers responded to 232,843 911 calls -- excluding Oxford -- in 2012. However, the centers in Monroe, Trenton and Miami University are secondary dispatch centers and don't receive calls directly from the 911 system and are not counted toward the total.

Captain Matt Franke, who serves as the county 911 coordinator, said the county receives about $850,000 from the 911 tariff and 40 percent of that money goes toward the operating fund and roughly 60 percent can be doled out to the other centers to reimburse approved expenses, like equipment replacement. He told the county commissioners on Monday the county was at risk of losing 911 funding until Oxford stepped up.

"It was looking to be a very contentious issue this year as we tried to determined how the (911) planning committee would make the decision," he said. "So it was definitely for the benefit of everyone that Oxford stood up and was willing to do this."

Elliott, who rotates on and off the 911 Planning Committee, said since his city had the lowest call volume in the county -- the city will add about 17 percent to the county's volume -- it made sense for them to bite the bullet, so to speak.

Chief Tony Dwyer at the sheriff's office said he isn't sure how many people they will need to hire, but they have numerous details to work out to marry Oxford's systems with the county's. Elliott said he doesn't believe any of his dispatchers will transfer to the county, but Dwyer is hoping a few might.

He said there is a long learning curve for dispatchers who have to know the countless protocols of all the various fire and police departments, what equipment they have, and more.

"We are hoping to get a couple of their current dispatchers down to work for us," he said. "It will give us a little stability with knowledge out there."

Scrimizzi said he couldn't be more pleased with the sheriff's handling of dispatch for his city.

"Of the hundreds of thousands of calls that have been answered in the last two years by dispatch, the transition was literally seamless," Scrimizzi said. "To me, this just made sense because who cares where the call is answered at? Most all alarms, when your house alarm goes off is answered usually in a different state. With technology the caller doesn't realize anything and the sheriff and his staff have been awesome."

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©2015 Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)

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