EATON — The Preble County Commissioners continue to plan for an emergency dispatch merger with the City of Eaton. During a meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 11, commissioners finally decided on an opening offer to present to the city.
First, the offer has to be approved by the Preble County Sheriff and then the Eaton City Manager will be presented with the opening offer. From there, discussion will take place between the two parties.
Previously, the commissioners had been studying different numbers and debating on whether negotiations should reopen after five years of the agreement, or if the agreement should be allowed to sunset. At the meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 11, Clerk Connie Crowell and Commission President Chris Day brought an offer before the other commissioners for discussion.
This proposed offer states the deal will be reviewed no later than May of the fifth year and that the City of Eaton, over those five years, will be paying roughly $1,000,000.
“This is a starting point, just so we can get this on paper,” Day explained. “When Connie and I sat down we wanted to bang out some verbiage so we would know where to start. Over the next five years we’re looking at a little over $2,000,000 in costs, that is between capital costs and employees.
“We’re right around $2,000,000. These are just starting numbers and we can craft these however we want to know, but the big thing is where do we feel that we need to be as we move forward with this?”
“The capital costs are just for pagers, not for radios?” Commissioner Denise Roberston asked, and Crowell noted she was correct.
“The only question I have, when we say capital cost, does that include going to the all MARCS system?” Commissioner Rodney Creech questioned, and Robertson answered he was right. “The county has always paid for towers and such, but now we’re going to ask [the City] to help us?”
“The sheriff gave me an updated sheet. If you remember, they were looking at additional items on the data system and waiting on the cost for that,” Day added. “That went up. It wasn’t a huge increase, but if you would remember, in looking at this whole package it is going to be cost effective to supply and update all the pagers. This benefits the City of Eaton and everybody. Like I said, this is just a starting point.”
“Yeah, but it’s about $350,000 more than we discussed last time,” Creech pointed out.
“I’m fine with this [offer],” Robertson said.
“I’m ready to move this forward, but this is not what we discussed,” Creech repeated.
Day asked, “What do you want to change?”
“Nothing,” Creech replied. “I’m ready to get this in their hands. Let’s move forward and they can give us guidance. Let’s work together on this. Last I knew, we were at $650,000 to $700,000 with no negotiations and now this is what we’re going to do, but I’m ready to do this.”
“None of us talked about these numbers the other day, but I’m ready to get this ball rolling,” Creech continued. “The capital costs are the capital costs, but I didn’t realize that we were going to charge them that. We’ve always paid the capital cost, but now we’re asking Eaton to step up and pay on the towers.”
“Well, they’re replacing their radios,” Robertson replied. “They’ve had costs incurred with their radios all along, so.”
After continued discussion, Creech stated he did not believe the offer Day came up with was too much, but he just was not sure about charging the City of Eaton for capital costs. Clerk Crowell expressed concern that if Creech was not on board with the offer than the public might follow his lead.
“If you’re not in favor of it now, you’re not going to go out and talk about being in favor of it,” Crowell pointed out.
“I can tell you that I have my opinion and everybody else has theirs. I support this, but this is not my idea,” he said. “We’ll see if the city supports it. I’m just one piece of a puzzle.”
“If you’re not comfortable with the dollar amount, lets discuss it,” Day said. “This is to just get something on paper. I want something so on year four or five we can look at it and see where we’re at. I just want to make sure that as we move forward we can continue to provide that service.”
“Let’s let Eaton decide if it’s too much,” Robertson said. “This discussion is with them, not Rodney.”
“I don’t think these numbers are high. I don’t,” Creech explained. “We are eating a big piece of the pie. These numbers aren’t high. I just keep going back to my stupid analogy — why are they paying when no on else is?”
“They have a huge call volume,” Robertson pointed out.
“I’m not saying this because I like Eaton. I’m saying this because they are part of the county. I just want to be fair,” Creech said. “They do have a huge volume of calls, but they also have a lot of residents and businesses who pay taxes. I don’t think these numbers are high, but I just can’t get over it.”
“I just think that as we move forward today, if we are not unified this is dead,” Day said.
“I’m not saying I’m not unified, I’m just saying that we need to work with them,” Creech clarified.
The board decided to go with the proposed document and to present it to the City of Eaton. The document proposes the city will pay to Preble County the sum of $181,076.25 for the first year, $190,000 for the second year, $199,500 for the third year, $209,475 for the fourth year, and $219,948.75 for the fifth year. At that point the county is requesting further negotiation.
The City of Eaton was presented with the proposal and Commissioner Day and Sheriff Mike Simpson attended the city council meeting on Monday, Oct. 16 to hear their reaction. The city will have to decide whether they are interested in the proposal as stated, or if they wish to have additional negotiation.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH