Ross Twp. trustees agreed last week to pay the Butler County Sheriff’s dispatch fees, but under protest.
The emergency 911 dispatch services total about $380,000 countywide.
Ross Twp. Board President Ellen Yordy said they agreed to pay the $6,839 monthly charge but also sent a letter letting it be known they still don’t agree with the charge.
“We’re paying them under protest,” Yordy told the Journal-News. “With each payment we’re sending in a letter saying that we don’t think it’s right, we’re still checking into it, that sort of thing. We still don’t think he’s right. We checked with our attorney and rather than have him stop the service to our community, we said we would go ahead and pay it.”
She said Sheriff Richard Jones didn’t threaten to cut off the service, but “we just don’t want to back ourselves in a corner either” since typically if you don’t pay for a service it is disconnected.
The letter in part states the fees are “arbitrary” and unfair because not all entities who use dispatch pay for it and there is no system “to review and dispute any of the assessed fees.”
The dispatch fee debate has been going on for years, the sheriff is charging communities who run their own police departments fees for using his dispatch center. Bills were sent in the following annual amounts: Fairfield Twp. ($202,122) Ross Twp. ($82,078), Oxford Twp. ($36,160), New Miami ($47,524), Seven Mile ($4,336) and MetroParks ($7,019), based on dispatch usage in 2020.
Ross trustees had considered suing the sheriff over the fees and even had an attorney discuss the matter with the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office. 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?”
Butler County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said there were some errors in the calculation of Seven Mile’s bill, so they are working that out with the village.
Their annual bill is $4,336, based on 365 calls and 1,030 times an officer pushed their radio to communicate with dispatchers during a call, which is referred to as “push to talk” or PTT. Seven Mile Mayor Vivian Gorsuch said they used to have a six-person department, it dropped to just the chief in 2020 and they added a second officer in February.
“We knew the call volume, there was no way that we had that kind of call volume, we knew that,” Gorsuch said. “We just had to get somebody to look at it.”
The Village of New Miami came to an agreement regarding its fees on Monday.
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 previously 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 last year. the commissioners agreed to use federal coronavirus relief funds to cover $390,370 in fees, but that was a one-time deal.
When they approved the subsidy, Commissioner Don Dixon said “It was short notice last year, so we stepped in and paid the first year so everybody should be prepared for this year. We’re expecting the users to help pay to keep the system up and improve it and pay for part of the personnel.”
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