The Butler County Sheriff’s Office does the majority of dispatching emergency 911 calls in the county, but there are dispatchers answering the phones in a few satellite locations, which call centers officials there say are crucial.
The county dispatches for 12 townships, Hamilton, Oxford and the villages. Fairfield, Middletown, Monroe, Trenton and West Chester Twp. have their own centers.
The state mandated consolidation several years ago, and Hamilton — mainly as a cost saving measure — and Oxford gave up centers and now have calls dispatched by the sheriff. The county risked losing about $400,000 annually in 911 taxes.
The funding loss threat appears to have evaporated for the time being, so consolidation talks have cooled.
Fairfield City Manager Mark Wendling said his city’s dispatch center is crucial.
“We haven’t surveyed the residents but we do feel it is important to maintain our dispatch center,” Wendling said. “Our dispatchers are intimately familiar with the city itself, where the streets are. I think it’s important we maintain that service. We’re not in a situation where we feel we can’t afford to do that.”
When consolidation talks were active a couple years ago officials in the free-standing dispatch locations, like Wendling, defended their decisions to hold onto the service.
Middletown, the county’s second-largest city, dispatched 50,998 emergency calls in 2016, and in 2017 police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said its center can’t close.
“We are not volunteering to give ours up at this time,” the chief said. “We are too big, too busy and we need our dispatch at this place and time. Financially, we do not save any money at this point by giving up dispatch.”
County Administrator Judi Boyko, who was West Chester’s top official then, said there are many things to consider in the consolidation discussion, not the least of which is each community’s profile.
“The familiarity with the community, the protocols the fire and police use and implement to dispatch personnel and equipment, those are all community specific,” she said. “Those conditions would need to be analyzed as part of any decision to consolidate, to be consolidated.”
Liberty Twp. pays the sheriff for dispatching through it’s police contract. Liberty Twp. Trustee Tom Farrell said he doesn’t think residents care who answers their 911 call, just that help gets there quickly. He said everything should be on the discussion table, including expensive emergency services.
“Everything needs to be looked at from a collaboration/consolidation area, everything,” Farrell said. “Nothing is off the table when it comes to collaborating to see if we can increase our services to our residents at a lower price.”