Butler County sheriff dispatch fees continue to cause discord

Some Butler County jurisdictions are still balking over the sheriff’s dispatch fees. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Some Butler County jurisdictions are still balking over the sheriff’s dispatch fees. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

After years of discussion and some discord a few jurisdictions who run their own cop shops but use the Butler County Sheriff’s dispatch center have agreed to pay their share of nearly $380,000 for the service.

The county commissioners recently ratified a memorandum of understanding with Fairfield Twp. to pay $202,122 based on actual call volume from 2020. Butler County Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer told the Journal-News the fees were calculated based on 11,619 dispatched calls and 98,463 times an officer pushed their radio to communicate with dispatchers during a call, which is referred to as “push to talk” or PTT.

“We knew that sooner or later we would have to pay for dispatch, I’m not sure how we haven’t been already,” Fairfield Twp. Police Chief Bob Chabali said. “We were fine paying it, not saying we were ecstatic but you know you’ve got to pay for service.”

Not all of the jurisdictions feel that way, they have also received bills that are due in February in the following amounts: Ross Twp. ($82,078), Oxford Twp. ($36,160), New Miami ($47,524), Seven Mile ($4,336) and MetroParks ($7,019).

Ross Twp. trustees had considered suing the sheriff over the fees and even had an attorney discuss the matter with the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office. Trustee Board President Ellen Yordy said they were told the sheriff is well within his rights to charge the fees so their attorney came back and said “is it even worth it”

The trustees are expected to vote on whether to pay the bill or not on Thursday. Yordy said they have budgeted for the expense, but they are not happy about it because the sheriff’s office has targeted only jurisdictions with their own police departments, not other jurisdictions who uses dispatch services for police and fire emergencies.

“If they were charging everybody according to this formula then fine,” Yordy said. “If everybody has to pay then everybody has to pay, but why pick out only the townships or the villages that have police departments.”

ExploreDispatch center debate: Butler County to cover $390,000 this year in new charges

Fairfield, Middletown, Monroe, Trenton and West Chester Twp. have their own dispatch centers. Liberty Twp. pays the sheriff’s office about $3 million a year to have their own dedicated sheriff’s outpost and dispatch services are included. Hanover Twp. Administrator Bruce Henry said previously they also have a contract with the sheriff for two dedicated deputies.

Hamilton and Oxford have their own police departments but began paying around $1.15 million and $366,319 respectively for the service several years ago.

The other smaller townships and villages count on the sheriff to respond to law enforcement emergencies in their areas. Dwyer has said these six entities have made a choice to provide enhanced police service to their communities and with that comes a cost. He said there is a difference between charging to dispatch other people’s employees and sending the sheriff’s own people out for emergencies.

When Dwyer first sent out bills to these police departments last year several officials complained to the commissioners saying it wasn’t fair, some said they weren’t given enough time to budget funds and others said they just can’t afford it.

Dwyer said since then, in addition to Fairfield Twp., officials with MetroParks and Oxford Twp. appear to be ready to pay up. Those two entities could not be reached for comment.

Dwyer said these bills should not have come as a surprise to anyone.

“The problem you had is this discussion goes back several years, they all knew about it,” Dwyer said. “The problem I think I had is the people involved either didn’t talk to those in management so to speak, the trustees, or new trustees came in. There were some people saying this is the first I’ve heard of this, I’m like this is not the first time this has been discussed with your agency.”

After the outcry the commissioners agreed to use federal coronavirus relief funds to cover $390,370 in fees, but that was a one-time deal. New Miami Mayor Stephanie Chandler said she wished the commissioners would keep covering the cost because the village can’t afford it.

“It would definitely impact the police department for sure,” Chandler said. “We pulled in $86,000 out of the police levy last year and if we have to pay them a $45,000 dispatch fee then we can’t have a department.”

The village also has a looming $3.5 million court judgement over its old speed camera program if the Ohio Supreme Court sides with about 33,000 speeders who sued eight years ago. Voters in November also denied an additional 5-mill police levy by a margin of 59% to 41%.

Commissioner Don Dixon said they will not continue the subsidy.

“It was short notice last year, so we stepped in and paid the first year so everybody should be prepared for this year,” Dixon said. “We’re expecting the users to help pay to keep the system up and improve it and pay for part of the personnel.”

Tiny Seven Mile’s bill is $4,336 based on 365 police calls and 1,030 push to talks. Mayor Vivian Gorsuch said her problem is with the formula which is based on the past, when they had more personnel using the system.

“The volume we have going into the dispatch is drastically reduced so I don’t even know where they’re coming up with the numbers,” Gorsuch said.

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