Butler County Sheriff’s Office taking closer look at dispatch costs

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office is revisiting its dispatch contracts with Hamilton and Oxford and starting talks with Fairfield Twp. about having them pay for services.

Butler County Sheriff’s Office Chief Tony Dwyer told the commissioners this week during budget hearings they need to revisit funding for the dispatch center. The projected budget for dispatching next year is $3.4 million. Hamilton and Oxford will pay $1.5 million combined for the service.

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“Fairfield Twp. has grown, they are a significant portion of our dispatching,” Dwyer said. “As like with Oxford they are going to need to come to the table and pay for some of that. But the way we originally negotiated with Hamilton was based on reducing their costs, so we got hooked into a price and now we have to go back and look at that and tweak those.”

He said the sheriff’s office dispatch center is looking at call volume to see if the existing contracts need to be adjusted, “so we can offset as much of our costs to running that center as we can.”

County dispatchers processed 223,448 total calls last year — 94,367 calls for Hamilton, 15,348 for Oxford and 12,193 for Fairfield Twp. In 2016 there were 213,931 calls — 95,629 for Hamilton, 12,469 for Oxford and 11,837 for Fairfield Twp.

Fairfield Twp. Police Chief Bob Chabali said it is too soon to comment on a potential agreement for dispatching. He said he hasn’t broached the subject with his trustees yet because there is nothing concrete to present.

“We don’t have much to say other than we’ll wait and see what happens…,” he said. “We’re kind of in a holding pattern.”

Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit said if Fairfield Twp. contracts with the sheriff he would expect his contract price might be able to be reduced.

“Part of the agreement was when and if other communities joined that we would evaluate the distribution of costs,” Bucheit said. “With the idea being that the more participation the broader those costs would be spread.”

He said they will need to evaluate how the costs are shared to determine “what is fair and equitable to the taxpayers in each of those communities that are at the table.”

MORE: Butler County must cut one more dispatch center or risk losing funding

When the contract was originally negotiated in 2013 the city agreed to pay $902,103 — the budget for continuing to run their own dispatch center was almost $1.4 million — beginning in 2014, and five percent more each year from 2015 through this year. Increases will be assessed based on the consumer price index going forward if the contract isn’t adjusted. The bill for next year is $1.1 million.

Oxford turned its dispatching over to the county in 2016 as part of the state mandated reduction — Hamilton’s merger was part of the mandate too — of the number of independent dispatch centers. The law that passed in 2012 said that jurisdictions with multiple Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) had to shave their centers down to four in 2016 and three in 2018 or risk losing half its wireless 911 and Next Generation 911 state funding, or about $400,000.

There are now four agencies that dispatch emergency calls for police and fire in the county. The sheriff, Middletown, Fairfield and West Chester Twp. all answer their own calls for service.

But there is an attorney general opinion that says as long as they don’t fund more than three PSAPs with the 911 funds they don’t need to shutter the physical locations. The other jurisdictions had no interest in losing their centers.

“The original statutes were for reducing them over time and that kind of got tweaked to where if you move the funding you don’t have to reduce the numbers,” Dwyer said.

Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott said his city will pay the sheriff $377,648 for dispatching next year. They were spending about $1 million running their own center. He said he is happy the sheriff is talking with Fairfield Twp. — Liberty Twp. pays for dispatching through it’s contract to have dedicated sheriff’s deputies patrolling their streets — as a matter of fairness.

“The sheriff’s office provides services to townships that do not contribute toward dispatch,” Elliott said. “So it seemed to me that there was a notion of fairness there, that they should be contributing based on the volume of calls the sheriff handles for them.”

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