County Voters Reject 911 Levy

County leaders have said the levy was necessary because of population growth in the western portion of the county, as well as increasing costs of 911 services and technology.

by Jennifer Smola, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio / May 4, 2017
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(TNS) — Licking County, Ohio, voters rejected a tax increase to support 911 services.

The levy failed 55-to-45 percent, according to final, unofficial results.

The five-year, 1-mill levy would have generated nearly $4 million annually and cost homeowners $35 per $100,000 of valuation.

County leaders have said the levy was necessary because of population growth in the western portion of the county, as well as increasing costs of 911 services and technology.

"A phone rings, people answer it, people dispatch," said Sean Grady, Licking County Emergency Management Agency director. "There's a lot of technology between those two things."

Initial response from the public safety community and county residents toward the levy had been positive, Grady said.

"The next step will be for us to sit back and decide whether it goes back on the ballot in November," Grady said, noting that the county had hoped to avoid putting the issue before voters this fall because there will likely be a number of other public safety levies on the ballot.

Newark merged its police dispatch with the county last year, agreeing to pay the county an annual fee of $515,000. Utica also started paying the county $11 per call, beginning in June, to dispatch village police after it discontinued its own dispatching

But the county dispatch center continued to handle calls for free for many other townships and municipalities, including Pataskala and Hebron.

Licking County had been considering ways to offset the cost of handling an increasing number of calls. A previous proposal to charge local fire and police departments $6 per call was met with resistance from smaller police and fire departments. That option is no longer being discussed, Grady said.

Johnstown, Granville and Heath still handle their own 911 and police calls, but are able to get on board with the county dispatching center at any time, should they decide to, Grady said.

jsmola@dispatch.com

@jennsmola

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©2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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