Butler County sheriff’s office submits plan for possible EMA takeover: Here’s what it said

The Butler County sheriff has submitted a written plan on his proposed Emergency Management Agency takeover, and part of the plan would pare down membership of the advisory board that oversees the agency.

Sheriff Richard Jones says he can save about $150,000 by taking over EMA, reduce redundancies and increase efficiency. Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer submitted the plan to the commissioners.

The plan includes cutting the 18-member advisory board down to six. That board now is made up of most jurisdictions that pay for the EMA. In the sheriff’s plan, there would be a representative from his office, the fire departments, police, townships, cities and the county commissioners.

RELATED: Butler County sheriff’s EMA moves: What both sides are saying about a possible takeover

“The current board is very large, they don’t really have a functional role, it’s reactive,” Dwyer told the Journal-News. “We propose to put a board on that’s similar but smaller and more nimble in its ability to function.”

Oxford Fire Chief John Detherage, who is co-chair of the advisory board, said that idea will cause some issues.

“I would assume there probably would be (people upset),” he said. “Seeing how the communities all kick in to it, I think it’s appropriate they all have their say.”

The proposal includes halving the four-person EMA staff.

“Obvious immediate changes involving the absorption of responsibilities including budgeting, payroll, clerical support, and various communication redundancies will be our first objective. However, the current BCEMA director has asked that BCEMA staff not be contacted regarding this potential shift in supervision,” Dwyer wrote.

“This created a situation of making exact planning slightly more difficult but not insurmountable. As we conduct the complete review of BCEMA operations, we will identify specific job duties, skill sets and technical capabilities of BCEMA personnel, looking to maximize what is most advantageous to Butler County.”

Dwyer noted there are several vacancies in the sheriff’s operation the two displaced people might fill.

No other major changes to the emergency management system are included in the plan except that the sheriff’s 450-person office will be available to assist EMA operations. Dwyer noted the heart of the EMA system is really all the first responders from the various jurisdictions and the specialized teams that exist to handle unique emergency situations.

“The true work is done by the men and women who serve on the Community Emergency Response Team, the Type 1 Hazardous Materials Team, the Technical Rescue Team and the All Hazards Incident Management Team,” Dwyer wrote. “The BCEMA only assists these endeavors and having the BCEMA supervised by the Sheriff’s Office will allow access to additional staff and services in support of the BCEMA mission.”

EMA Director Matt Haverkos said he contacted leadership on the EMA board, and they will hold special meeting to discuss the plan and report back to the commissioners. But, he said, “I don’t think that there’s a whole lot to do with the plan because it’s a lot of general statements.”

MORE: Butler County sheriff’s official to packed meeting: We can save $150K by taking over EMA management

Jones is hoping Haverkos will remain the EMA director even if the takeover happens.

Jones has been trying to overtake EMA for over a decade, but until recently the commissioners couldn’t consider it because it was prohibited by state law. The takeover is legal now that State Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp., inserted a provision in the transportation bill that allows the takeover.

“I have no opinion on the matter until I receive additional information and public comment,” said Commissioner T.C. Rogers, who added he had read the plan.

Dwyer has asked the commissioners to “act now” so he can begin implementing changes for next year.

Commissioner Don Dixon said he had just received the plan when contacted by the Journal-News and had not read it yet, but he added the issue is a complicated one and the decision can’t be rushed.

“We’ll do our due diligence and we said we’d vet it thoroughly,” he said, adding they will hopefully have a schedule next week for more meetings on the issue. The commissioners’ chambers were packed a week ago with people opposing the move.

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter could not be reached for comment but told the Journal-News previously she is “leaning” in favor of the sheriff’s plan.

Detherage, who is also president of the Butler County Fire Chiefs Association, said the EMA here doesn’t need fixing.

“Our EMA is not broke, our EMA does a great job, it’s one of the best in the state,” he said. “This whole thing is just ridiculous.”

About the Author