EATON — Preble County Commissioners continue to discuss a 9-1-1 dispatch merger with the City of Eaton and Preble County villages.
While all three commissioners agree this is a good idea, Commissioner Rodney Creech and Commissioner Denise Robertson disagree on whether the City of Eaton should have to pay if the villages do not.
During the commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, Robertson argued Eaton already pays for their PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) and has a system in place to cover the cost. She believes that by asking the city to pay some of the merger, it will allow Preble County to make up some of the cost.
“The city pays a $150,000 a year and that will pretty much cover our costs of the increases of taking their employees. Hopefully it will cover the training — it’s $200,000 a year. That will cover our increased costs,” she said.
“Villages don’t have PSAP, that is why I don’t think they should be a part of this conversation. We have two PSAP we’re merging — at some point Eaton decided they wanted their own and they support their own financially. We have a lot of unknowns, we don’t know what the future cost of this will be.
“This is all new and I just don’t like tying the hands of the future board,” she said. “I think do a five-year contract and then we can renegotiate at the end of the five years. Going forward, I’m there.”
However, Commissioner Creech believes that since the City of Eaton is part of Preble County, they should be treated like the rest of Preble County.
“I’ll repeat what I’ve been saying all along. Number one: the City of Eaton is in Preble County. Number two: the residents and businesses in Eaton pay the same taxes as everyone else in the county. Why would we charge the city for a service the rest of the county is getting at no cost?” Creech questioned.
“If we are to charge the city — they are paying the same amount of taxes as everyone else, but we’re going to charge them for a service that everyone else is getting. I guess, it was brought up to me this morning — and it is a good question – can we legally do that? I have somebody checking into that. How can you charge one entity, but not the others? How can we just cherry pick? Not that it is going to effect my opinion. “
“I think, if you look at it, we represent the entire county,” Creech continued. “Again, the city is in the county. Is it fair to the city to pay and our second largest population — which is Lakengren — does not pay anything. Yes, Eaton did start their own PSAP and through the communications I’ve had I was told that it was partially to have redundancy. To have two operations.”
“We don’t want two PSAP in this county,” Creech said. “We can’t afford to have two PSAP in this county. I don’t like it, but I’m looking out for what is best for this county and the city is in the county. We know our communities, they’re utilizing this service and cannot afford to add it to their budgets. It is unfair to have an entity in the county pay for a service that everyone else is getting for free. I cannot say that enough.”
“As far as dollars, we’re throwing a dart,” he continued. “You know, I started out somewhere between $100,000 to $150,000 a year roughly. I do like the front load, to help with our expenses. You can throw out $200,000, I was thinking the same amount every year, but I think we’re going to end up at the same place where at the end of say, five years, we’re going to be looking at $600,000 to $650,000.
“With that, I would almost ask the city if they would rather spend that over three or five years and I think they’ll say five. Then again, they might want to get it over with. That is their upload investment and I think we should work with them. They are good tax payers. They’re doing what everyone else is doing, why should they be penalized?”
As for Commissioner Chris Day, he was focused on discussing the numbers for the project.
“If we can, let’s get the capital cost up front. This sheet is fairly simpler than it was before and I beat the sheriff up regarding if he was comfortable with this and he said he was. He is as comfortable as he can be,” Day said. “I don’t know what the magic number is and I still think we should sunset this and we can have everyone around a table to discuss it.”
“I don’t think the money is the issue. I think the sun-setting it is the issue. I’m willing to do the $250,000, $150,000, $100,000 and then renegotiate it, but I won’t be here. I might be here,” Robertson replied.
“I’m not happy about all this, but I can tell you with my stance, if we’re going to have a county dispatch how can we ask one entity to help us out, but not the others?” Creech asked.
“Maybe during the renegotiations that can be discussed,” Robertson replied. “Right now we’re merging two PSAP. We have one and the City of Eaton has one. They are paying $300,000 a year to support theirs, this will be a savings for them of half that money, if we go with the $150,000 like I want to. Maybe in the five years it is a different discussion. Maybe we will ask the townships and villages to chip in.”
“The only fair thing I know to do is to assess it on everybody or assess it on nobody,” Creech replied.
“Or nothing. Let the city keep their PSAP and we do nothing. That won’t cost us another dime. It’s an option,” Robertson said.
“One thing we haven’t talked about is if there are future mandates — which they say are coming — we might have to hire these people anyway,” Creech pointed out. “We also don’t know what the future holds. We may have to hire two to three more people anyway. I just know this is the right thing to do.
“I’d like to see this sunset at five years and Day’s numbers are more aggressive than mine, but I think they’re good.”
“I like the higher numbers, but I am not okay with sun-setting it. I want to renegotiate in five years,” Robertson repeated.
Day asked, “Can we come up with verbiage to keep them as partners with us? There is going to need to be a mechanism where annually we can review for issues with one PSAP.”
Both Creech and Robertson replied they didn’t like the idea of “keeping people on the hook.”
“We don’t have to do anything now,” Robertson said.
“I understand that,” Day said. “But we need to either be proactive or reactive. This is being proactive. I truly believe that. I think we will be able to offer better services to all the residents in the county by having a fully staffed and trained dispatch center, instead of two which are substandard.”
The commissioners came to no decision during the meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27.
On Friday, Oct. 5, at press time, Commissioner Day said they still had not come to a decision. More discussion is needed before a decision on time and money can be made. At that point, commissioners will present terms and conditions to the City of Eaton for approval.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH