Ohio sheriff's office to charge communities for dispatching police calls

Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said they were already charging a handful of communities, leaving some to wonder why others didn't have to pay


By Denise G. Callahan
Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio

BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio — The Butler County sheriff plans to charge all other jurisdictions that run their own police departments and use the dispatch center for the service next year, and some chiefs are balking at the price.

Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said the department plans to charge Fairfield, Oxford and Ross townships, the villages of New Miami and Seven Mile and MetroParks for police dispatching next year. The cities of Hamilton and Oxford began paying for the service several years ago.

"This started some time ago when people started inquiring as to why Hamilton and Oxford pay and we're doing it for free for others," Dwyer said.

The sheriff's office dispatches for police and fire services in all of these areas and the smaller jurisdictions countywide where it also provides police protection. The 2020 budget for dispatch is $3.9 million.

"There's nothing that requires us to dispatch for those entities independently without charge," Dwyer said. "The fire departments, there is no substitute for that. Like in Hanover Twp. they contract for police services so they get dispatching for free but there is nothing to supplant their fire department so obviously we're not going to charge for that, that's our responsibility."

Liberty Twp. pays the sheriff's office about $3 million annually to police the township, a contract that includes dispatching. Fairfield, Middletown, Monroe, Trenton and West Chester Twp. have their own dispatch centers. When Hamilton faced a $5 million budget deficit several years ago, officials made a deal for the county to take over dispatching for the county's largest community. The city's 2013 budget for dispatch was $1.39 million. The negotiated cost for the sheriff's office to take over the service was $902,103 in 2014.

Under the agreement, Hamilton paid the county 5 percent more from 2015 to 2018 to account for increased maintenance fees, personnel costs, and system upgrades. Now the increases are based on the consumer price index.

The county took over dispatch for Oxford in 2016, due to a new state law that limited the number of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) a county could maintain. Oxford's bill next year will be $366,319, based on 13,505 calls in 2019.

Dwyer noted Hamilton and Montgomery counties charge for dispatch services and his operation came up with what they have deemed the fairest formula for establishing what to charge each entity.

"We found the most consistent way is to look at the total number of calls and the push-to-talks," Dwyer said. "That's kind of a litmus for the workload that each entity puts on the dispatch center."

Hamilton had 91,550 calls dispatched last year and the city's bill for next year will be $1.15 million. The smallest jurisdiction with it's own cop shop is Seven Mile, the village will pay $5,764 based on 341 calls last year.

While the other jurisdictions' payments won't impact the city's bill, Scott Scrimizzi, Hamilton's executive director of public safety, said they have a good deal.

"We're very satisfied with out contract and we're able to budget every year for that," Scrimizzi said. "We're good."

The sheriff's office first broached the subject of charging other jurisdictions when Fairfield Twp. calls started mounting a couple years ago. Last year the township logged 11,694 calls and will be charged $219,638. Police Chief Bob Chabali was a little surprised when the Journal-News informed him of the price, he was given a $162,898 bill a while ago.

"If you got a call that your electric bill went up $300, how would you feel," the chief said. "My position here is to present that to the administrator, who will present it to the trustees and they will ultimately make the final decision or give guidance as to what to do, if anything."

Dwyer said the first figure he gave Chabali was for this year but they never imposed it.

Ross Twp. will owe the sheriff's office $75,780 next year, based on 4,165 calls. Township Administrator Bob Bass said the trustees will consider a recommendation from their attorney on whether they can challenge the fairness of the charges Thursday. He would not elaborate further on the issue.

New Miami will get a bill for $47,542 calculated on the sheriff's budget for this year and calls from 2019. Police Chief Bob Back is also balking at the price saying "that's way too much."

"Before we have to pay it I'd like to see how they came up with that figure," Back said. "I know our attorney isn't in agreement to that amount of money, but like I say if there is no recourse other than they're not going to dispatch us, if they have us over a barrel where we have to pay what they say."

He said the village council was scheduled to discuss the issue Thursday night.

(c)2020 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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