LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS / University Heights City Council meeting highlights [online and print 4-18-2016]

APRIL 18, 2016

All council members were present.

Public hearing on joint dispatch center

The council meeting opened with a public hearing to discuss the Regional Council of Governments (COG) agreement among the cities of University Heights, Cleveland Heights, South Euclid, and Shaker Heights for the purpose of forming and operating a joint dispatch center for police, fire and EMS (emergency medical services) response.

University Heights Fire Department already has a joint dispatch program with Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights. 

This [new] agreement would combine fire, police and EMS calls into a single dispatch center. The State of Ohio is requiring all communities with fewer than 80,000 residents to combine their dispatch units. 

In Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland is the only entity large enough to remain independent. The remaining communities in the county must consolidate into a total of five dispatch centers in order to remain part of the countywide 9-1-1 service. 

The state is offering five grants of $1 million to each of the five centers for start-up costs. Four other centers have already been formed; this would be the fifth and last center, but agreement must be reached soon in order to receive the grant. 

When the five dispatch centers have been formed, all remaining unaffiliated communities will have to join one of these five centers or remain independent and not receive 9-1-1 calls received by the county from cell phone calls.

The first plan for a joint center included Beachwood, but Beachwood wanted to “own” the dispatch center and bill the other cities for the use of the center.

The current pending agreement includes Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, South Euclid and University Heights. A governing body, made up of mayors and city managers, would oversee the COG and hire an individual to run the center. Each city would have to pay $90,000 unless an additional grant, which is being sought in the amount of $400,000, is obtained. This amount is to show the serious intent of the cities to form this venture. Also, each city would pay $17,500 annually toward a capital fund for costs. Any additional funding needed would be billed to the participating cities based on the number of calls received per city. 

Unaffiliated communities that later join the joint dispatch center would be required to pay a portion of the setup and ongoing monthly costs. Presumably, additional savings will be realized over time. The center will be sized to serve a larger area–not just the current four communities.

University Heights’ dispatch costs are currently relatively high because police officers fill in for absent dispatch operators. While cost reductions are expected through the dispatch center, the costs are still theoretical. Larry Heiser, finance director, presented a spreadsheet of anticipated costs and financing, but all council members found it difficult to read due to a lack of labels and explanatory text. Vice Mayor Susan Pardee asked Heiser to revise the document for the next meeting. Councilman Steven Sims asked for further details on the transition costs, including possible severance fees for the current dispatch operators, and controls that will be in place over the ongoing costs of operations.

Another public hearing to discuss this issue [was scheduled for May 2.]

[The LWV observer was not able to remain for the council meeting following the public hearing, nor was she available to attend the May 2 city council meeting. It has been reported that the city council approved the city's participation in formation of the COG.]

LWV Observer: Wendy Deuring.

These meeting summaries are abstracted from LWV observers’ written reports. The summaries have been edited and prepared by Anne McFarland, Charlene Morse and Maryann Barnes. To receive e-mail postings of full reports, send an e-mail to mbarnes9515@gmail.com or join through Google groups using “lwv-chuh observer reports” as a search phrase.

These reports contain member observation and selected highlights of public meetings and are not official statements of the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland. This disclaimer must accompany any redistribution of these reports.

League of Women Voters

Observer Corps editor for the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland

Read More on University Heights
Volume 9, Issue 6, Posted 5:39 PM, 05.19.2016