EATON — After much discussion, the Preble County Commissioners finally came up with a starting deal to present to the City of Eaton regarding the future public safety dispatch merger.
Commission President Chris Day and Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson presented the deal to the city during the city council meeting on Monday, Oct. 16.
The city expressed needing more time to look over the deal before any decision was made.
The proposed deal states the county will provide to the City of Eaton and its police, fire, and emergency medical departments emergency dispatch and communication services. Those services consist of 24-hour, seven-day-a-week dispatching service for all calls including E9-1-1, computerized CAD dispatch, records management services, radio communication services, and other information which assists the City of Eaton in protecting property and keeping the peace.
This proposal does not include any costs otherwise associated with the operation of the Preble County PSAP, which is governed by the Preble County 9-1-1 Plan as amended.
The sheriff will employ the city’s dispatchers and communication operators “if future hiring occurs in accordance with the union contract in place.”
Preble County is asking that the city pay $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, negotiations will need to be held, no later than May of the fifth year.
The City of Eaton will provide all mobile/portable radio equipment compatible with the system utilized by the Preble County Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, the city shall purchase any additional hardware it feels it needs.
The city was given the proposed document on Friday, Oct. 13. Commissioner Day and Sheriff Simpson attended the council meeting on Monday, Oct. 16 to discuss what was proposed.
Only Mayor Dave Kirsch and councilman Dave Daily were able to speak on the matter, as councilman Craig Moormeier was absent, and councilmen Brad Moore and Joe Renner are sheriff’s deputies.
Day opened the discussion by explaining they have been looking into a possible merger for more than three years. He noted, the technology has changed drastically. Then he turned the floor over to Simpson to explain just how the technology has changed and what expenses the merger might incur.
“Respectfully Chris [Day], I just don’t understand these numbers,” Mayor Kirsch said. “I heard [Commissioner] Rodney Creech’s particular perspective, and correct me if I’m wrong, but his perspective is that the City of Eaton will commit to a series of investments that will then become free to the citizens in five years. The reason for his perspective is that the townships and villages are not paying for this service.
“I guess my question back to you is why do you think this is fair? If you look at this five-year payment plan and then we go back into negotiations. How is this fair, versus what [Creech] is proposing?”
“With all the unknowns out there about where we’ll be in two to four years, who says this won’t go up? It has already changed drastically,” Day responded.
“Can that become something we bounce back to the citizens of Preble County? Could we tell them what it is going to cost and then do a millage adjustment? Doesn’t that seem more fair?” Kirsch proposed.
“I don’t disagree,” Day said. “But at that point in time, lets say it goes before the voters and it doesn’t pass. What then?”
“I can’t help but think that as county commissioners, in order to meet the standards required by the state, if the residents say no, you as representatives for the county would have to go ahead and put the millage on. That is the responsibility of the county commissioners. Am I thinking wrong?” Kirsch questioned.
Commissioner Day affirmed he was right and the commissioners do have that power.
“I was really displeased with County Commissioner Denise Robertson’s particular feedback. I just thought, at the end of the day, we are all citizens of Preble County. Respectfully, I don’t know everything and her and I did talk, but I don’t know her reasoning. I don’t understand it,” Kirsch said. “So, I guess I’m throwing this question to you: should we be looking at different avenues? Does this seem fair to you Chris [Day]. If you think it is fair and she thinks its fair, then it doesn’t make sense for us to spend time to negotiate a contract with two commissioners on one side and one on another. We can then step back and make another decision.”
“I’m open to whatever you guys can shoot back to us. This is a starting point. We’re open to any response or negotiation back. I agree that it has to be fair to everybody,” Day said. “I want this to work, I really do, I think this is the best option.”
Kirsch responded, he does support the merger, but wants it to be fair for the city. He then requested additional time to discuss it with other council members and said the city manager would respond to the commissioners when they have a response or counter offer.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH