Wednesday, April 28, 1999

System would increase cost of dispatches


Townships, cities charged for each call

BY DAN KLEPAL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The cost of doing business will go up for municipalities and townships if a new digital communications system is built in Hamilton County.

        They now are billed $13.13 for each emergency radio dispatch coming to them from the county's Emergency Communications Center in Colerain Township.

        That fee is expected to rise to about $15 per dispatch if a new 800-megahertz system is installed.

        Voters will decide May 4 if they want to tax themselves with a special levy to pay for the $63.7 million system.

        The dispatch fees amounted to $2.9 million last year from cities and townships in Hamilton County. An additional $3.5 million was billed to the Hamilton County sheriff's office. The dispatch fees are used for upkeep of the system.

        Greg Wenz, operations director at the communications center, said the amount of the fee is figured by dividing maintenance cost into the number of dispatches.

        “The fees will go up a little bit because we'll be adding a lot of infrastructure,” Mr. Wenz said. “So there will be additional maintenance.”

        The dispatch fees have been controversial over the years.

        Cheviot, for example, has withheld paying more than $32,700 in fees because of a dispute with the county.

        The issue: When dispatching fire service, the county communications center also sends a police officer. That makes two dispatches for a single call at a cost of $26.26.

        “Over the past six years, our dispatch cost has gone from $4 to $13.13,” said Cheviot Mayor J. Michael Laumann. “That's a big increase over a short period of time. That's pricey for us, so we started to identify ways to reduce our costs.”

        The city has asked the communications center to stop dispatching police during ambulance runs. “We have good communication between our fire department and our police, so we don't need them to dis patch a police officer,” Mr. Laumann said.

        Cheviot has retained a lawyer and is negotiating with the county to resolve the matter, Mr. Laumann said.

        Hamilton County Administrator David Krings said the county can't stop the dual dispatches.

        “One of the most potentially high areas of liability is in the dispatch center,” Mr. Krings said. “We're not going to get into a situation where we're relying on someone else to deliver the messages.”

        Colerain Township had the highest bill last year, at $273,502. Sharonville led the way for cities, with a bill of $169,609.

        Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin said he doesn't expect the higher dispatch fees — if Issue 3 passes on May 4 — to be a problem.

        “It's a better deal than if they had to perform this service themselves,” Mr. Dowlin said.

       



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