County Sheriff Suggests Emergency Management Agency Takeover

The Butler County, Ohio, sheriff has been trying to overtake EMA for some time, but until recently the county commissioners couldn’t entertain the notion because it was prohibited by state law.

by Denise Callahan, Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio / July 15, 2019
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(TNS) — Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones wants to save taxpayers about $150,000 by taking over emergency management for the county, but emergency responders say the budget should not be the primary concern when people’s safety is at stake.

The commissioners’ chambers were packed Monday morning with a standing room-only crowd anxious to hear the sheriff’s plan. Jones was not in attendance, but Chief Deputy Tony Dwyer gave the broad strokes about halving the $300,000 EMA personnel budget.

“Our proposal is retaining only two of the four people which reduced the cost by about $150,000, which is a 50 percent savings which will be attributed back to the per capita fee that all the townships and cities pay into run EMA,” Dwyer said.

“With reducing two people we’ll then adopt all the functions that those two people would normally be responsible for EMA, and then all the different functions that are taking place would be distributed amongst my current staff. We’re not going to be adding staff.”

Dwyer said he understands the trepidation the fire personnel through the county are feeling about the potential change, but said people worried when the sheriff took over the dog warden function and the Butler County emergency communication system and those fears have been unfounded.

Former EMA director and current Morgan Twp. Fire Chief Jeff Galloway said Dwyer is comparing dissimilar things.

“You’re not talking apples to apples,” Galloway said. “We have most of the resources and all that, we’re doing a great job now if you look at what we’re doing, to say ‘well we can make it better’ well do you really fix something that’s not broken.”

The 2019 EMA budget is about $400,000 — funded by local jurisdictions and federal grants — and another $100,000 for special teams like Hazmat.

Commissioner Don Dixon told the crowd this was just the first of many forums to come on the topic. He told the Journal-News previously it’s worth taking a look at.

“We’ll look at it from all sides and see if we can make something better or improve what we’ve got,” he said, but noted there are a number of potential issues.

“How does the old agreement that we have affect the funding?” he said. “If we change it, how does that funding stream work? A lot of it’s federal money, can it go somewhere other the EMA board?”

Dwyer said the sheriff has offered to keep County EMA Director Matt Haverkos in his current post if the takeover is consummated.

The sheriff has been trying to overtake EMA for some time, but until recently the commissioners couldn’t entertain the notion because it was prohibited by state law. The takeover is legal now that State Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp., inserted a provision in the transportation bill that allows the takeover.

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©2019 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)

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