Hilliard Northwest News

City Council expected to OK dispatching contract next month

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Hilliard City Council is expected to adopt legislation next month approving a three-year contract with Dublin to provide emergency-dispatching services.

Dublin City Council and the Norwich Township trustees have approved the contract, which begins Oct. 1 for emergency calls.

Hilliard police will dispatch nonemergency calls until Jan. 13, 2014, after which the Dublin Division of Police will handle all calls for Hilliard and Brown and Norwich townships.

An ordinance authorizing the contract was introduced at the Aug. 26 meeting of the Public Safety and Legal Affairs Committee and immediately forwarded to City Council, where it received a first reading.

It is scheduled for a second reading and public hearing Sept. 9 and a final reading Sept. 23.

"It's one of the smartest things we've done," Councilman Jim Ashenhurst said. "Dublin will be a great partner and has a reputation of doing things right."

A related ordinance was introduced to waive a quarterly fee of $65,346 that Norwich Township owes the Hilliard Division of Police for dispatching services for the months of July, August and September.

Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt said the city is waiving the fee to compensate the township for the approximately $130,000 in expenses it will incur for equipment costs associated with the transfer of dispatching services from Hilliard to Dublin.

"Since 85 percent of Hilliard residents also live in Norwich Township, we thought it made sense to share in the cost (of new equipment Norwich Township needs)," Schonhardt said.

But Councilman Al Iosue questioned whether the offer was necessary.

"It's a small cost considering the benefit that will accrue to our citizens in the future," Schonhardt replied.

Two residents criticized the proposal.

Eli Bowen, a Circle Drive resident whose wife is a Hilliard police dispatcher, said Hilliard "shouldn't give one penny to Dublin," adding that the switch will result in job losses for Hilliard.

The police department is using part-time dispatchers and overtime to maintain necessary staffing levels through Sept. 30, Hilliard Police Chief Doug Francis said.

The department is authorized to have 11 full-time dispatchers, but that number recently was reduced to seven through retirement and attrition.

The Dublin Division of Police will hire six new dispatchers, Francis said. Three will start Oct. 1 and three more will be in place by mid-January when Dublin begins taking all service calls.

Bowen also said cities such as Upper Arlington and Worthington, involved in discussions for a regional dispatching center, are using Hilliard as a "guinea pig" to gauge the success of the merger.

Marc Barraco, a City Council candidate who was defeated in the May primary, questioned additional costs associated with the merger, such as software licensing, equipment needed to become compatible with Dublin's equipment and whether Dublin would remain a primary principal safety answering point, as the number of primary PSAPs continues to shrink as part of a concentrated statewide consolidation.

PSAPs are equipped with the ability to triangulate and pinpoint the location of 911 calls placed from cellphones.

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