Ohio towns could save 34% by consolidating public safety dispatch services

2.9.2012 | Duplicating effort is never efficient. So why do so many small cities in a region have separate municipal services like water management or fire and emergency dispatchers?

It makes sense to have fire engines nearby so they can get to the first fast, but the dispatcher? That’s what community leaders in three Ohio cities wondered when they asked the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University to do a feasibility study on combing services.

Their hunch was right. According to the study, by consolidating police, EMS, and fire dispatch services, Ashland, Wooster, and Wayne County could collectively save upwards of $330,000 a year, or about 34% if they banded together and had one central dispatch team instead of three.

In an exhaustive feasibility study, Levin College’s Center for Public Management concluded that a consolidation would be legally implementable and could provide service that was equal to or better than current service.

“This [report] is written to allow the involved entities to begin the development of the new model for emergency dispatching services for Wayne County and the City of Ashland,” said Wooster Mayor Robert Breneman, Director of Administration Robert Fowler, Fire Chief Robert Eyler, and Police Chief Matthew Fisher in a press release joint statement.

Wayne County and the cities of Ashland and Wooster lie between Cleveland and Columbus. Ashland, population 20,362, is the county seat of Ashland County. It has its own police and fire departments, although Ashland County’s sheriff’s department dispatches for them. Wooster, population 26,119, is in Wayne County and has both a fire and police department. Dispatch services are provided by Wayne County’s communication center in Wooster. Wayne County spans 555 square miles and has a population of 114,520. In addition to dispatch services for Wooster, Wayne County also dispatches for seven other villages and towns. It also dispatches emergency medical services for Wooster, and several townships. Additional details are provided in the report.

The researchers considered three scenarios with different combinations of towns and municipalities.

In the first scenario, which includes Ashland, Wooster, and Wayne County and the municipalities it dispatches for), the estimated savings in dispatch costs per year would be:

    • $122,581 for the city of Ashland per year, or a 29% savings over costs in 2010.
    • $203,662 for Wooster, or 36% over 2010 costs.
    • $201,562 for Wayne County, or a 36% savings.

The savings depends on the buy-in and contribution of the 15 other municipalities in the area that currently do not pay for dispatch service. In the above scenario, these entities will collectively pay approximately $191,000.

Savings in the other three scenarios were equally impressive.

The new report is one of three completed recently by CPM in response to government officials seeking ways to provide comprehensive services while saving public dollars.

All three reports are online:

Consolidated Dispatch Center Feasibility Study (Prepared for the city of Wooster, city of Ashland, and Wayne County Ohio, October, 2011)

Consolidated Dispatch Center Feasibility Study: Ohio Case Studies (Prepared for the city of Wooster, city of Ashland, and Wayne County Ohio, October, 2011)

Case Studies for Consolidated Public Safety Dispatch Center Feasibility Study: The Next Steps (Prepared for the city of Parma, OH, August, 2011)

The team is available to conduct similar research for other municipalities. Contact Dalia Shimek at 216-687-9221, or d.shimek@csuohio.edu.

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