August 28, 2014

Elyria
Mostly clear
65°F
test

Grafton looks to switch dispatch duties to 911 to save money

GRAFTON — Village Council approved a motion Tuesday to begin negotiations to have Lorain County 911 take over Grafton’s police and fire dispatching.

Mayor Megan Flanigan said the village is looking at the idea as a way to save money, perhaps as much as $200,000, that could help the village deal with looming budget woes.

She also said that the village’s residents — and everyone else who owns property in the county — are already paying for the county’s 911 Call Center thanks to a levy passed last year.

Still, Flanigan insisted the village and county are only now embarking on formal talks after preliminary discussions earlier this year.

“We’re still trying to work out the details,” she said.

Linda Bales, the village’s clerk-treasurer, said there are three full-time dispatchers and at least three part-timers who now work for the village. Flanigan acknowledged those employees would be out of a job if a deal is struck with the county.

County officials are under the impression that the Grafton pact will come to pass.

“I assume it’s going to go through,” county Commissioner Lori Kokoski, who sits on the board that oversees 911, said. “Anytime somebody comes on board, it’s a good deal because they no longer have to pay to have their dispatching done.”

Although 911 handles dispatching for several fire departments around the county, Grafton would be the first law enforcement agency outside of the Sheriff’s Office to be dispatched by 911.

County Administrator Jim Cordes said Grafton Police Chief Dan Clark, who did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday, told him he wants the county to take over dispatching for the village as early as June 1.

“We’re excited about this,” Commissioner Tom Williams said.

Village Council President Randy Moore said a final decision has not been made yet, but Council will do what’s best for the safety of residents.

“We’re just talking to the county to see what they can do for us,” Moore said.

Not everyone has been pleased with how the village has handled the proposal to shift its dispatching to 911. Patrick Mudge, the village’s former administrator and safety-service director, cited it as among the reasons for his abrupt resignation last month.

He said at the time that the discussions of the proposal hadn’t been handled delicately, especially because the change would mean that the current Grafton dispatchers would lose their jobs.

Grafton’s dispatchers are in the process of unionizing, but a representative from the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association didn’t respond to a call or email Wednesday. Flanigan said the 911 proposal has nothing to do with the unionization effort.

Cordes said that Grafton dispatchers will be able to be interviewed and tested for positions at 911, but aren’t guaranteed jobs. He said the county is looking to hire three new dispatchers in the near future.

Cordes also said that the county is in discussions with other villages and cities to take over their police dispatching services but declined to identify which communities are considering the change.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.