Upper Arlington City Council has agreed to pay an additional $21,000 to continue to study a proposed 911 dispatch merger.
A month after a $90,000 report failed to provide enough information for officials to determine if they should consolidate the city's 911 dispatch services with those of Dublin, Hilliard, Worthington and Norwich and Washington townships, the city has commissioned another study.
Council on Monday, Oct. 28, voted unanimously to provide Ebensburg, Pa.-based L.R. Kimball with up to $21,000 to provide more information about how much a 911 merger would cost Upper Arlington and how it would affect local 911 dispatch staffing and service.
"From direction from council to further investigate our options and what our next step would be, we found it prudent to contract with (Kimball)," Upper Arlington Finance and Administrative Services Director Cathe Armstrong said. "We felt in order to (make a consolidation decision) timely, we could use more help from Kimball in their expertise."
Upper Arlington and the other communities eyeing the 911 consolidation received a report from Kimball on Sept. 6 that said the merger could result in $1.2 million worth of annual savings.
That report noted the current combined operating cost for each community's dispatching operation is $4.5 million a year. It also stated one-time costs to merge operations would be about $785,000, including equipment upgrades and building renovations in Dublin.
Although the original study cost about $90,000, Armstrong noted that $51,316 was funded through a state grant.
The individual communities contributed $10,000 for that project.
According to a staff report provided to council by Armstrong and Upper Arlington Fire Chief Jeff Young, the new study will seek to provide more detailed information about how much Upper Arlington could save through the merger.
"The intent of this additional work is to provide city staff and city council more-detailed and more-focused information that pertains specifically to the city of Upper Arlington communications and 911 dispatching needs and services," the report said.
At a council conference session last month, which Kimball representatives attended to discuss the original study, several council members expressed dissatisfaction with the information provided.
On Monday, several council members again indicated they were disappointed by the results of the first study.
"Why would this have not all been done in the first study?" Councilman Mike Schadek asked.
Councilman John Adams said he would support the additional review due to the significance of the proposed merger, which could yield cost savings for the city and could come prior to mandates for 911 dispatching mergers by state or federal lawmakers.
However, he said the lack of specific information in the original study gave him "pause" prior to voting in favor of increased work by Kimball.
"In my mind, we got very little utility out of the study," Adams said. "I was very disappointed with the first version we got."
Armstrong said the additional review will provide Upper Arlington with 911 dispatch options beyond consolidation, including possible improvements to existing police- and fire-dispatch operations and possible technology upgrades.
Hilliard and Norwich Township use Dublin's communications center for police and fire dispatching. Worthington has not decided on merging.