Oregon City Council opposes 911 consolidation plan

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Oregon City Council on Monday voted unanimously against the Lucas County Board of Commissioners’ plan to merge and consolidate 911 operations.
        Lucas County Commissioners have proposed consolidating all Lucas County 911 dispatching operations into a single entity, which includes six primary PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) currently operating in Lucas County hosted by the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon, Maumee, Sylvania Township, Sylvania and Toledo.
        The plan calls for all 911 dispatchers from across the county to move to the emergency services building in downtown Toledo.
        Commissioners believe it would be more efficient and save money.
        According to the resolution, “The current proposal promises to save Oregon money, but does not specifically outline what the actual cost savings would be. Oregon has a long history of providing quality dispatch services to police and fire with a highly trained staff that is dedicated to the city. The current consolidation plan fails to provide answers on how many of the city’s operations outside of dispatching will be accomplished as they are now through the Oregon dispatch center. It is the nearly unanimous consensus of the city’s dispatchers and police officers that the citizens of Oregon have become accustomed to a level of personal service that could not be maintained with the 911 consolidation.”
        The proposed plan uses a system where there would be a call taker and a dispatcher.
        “Under the separate model dispatch times will inevitably be slower than our citizens and responders currently appreciate,” according to the resolution. When changes are made to public service, it must always strike a balance between the impact on the community, and costs. It must be considered if the plan will improve the service to the community and whether it will save the citizens money. The focus should be on the quality of service, as this is a safety issue.
        At a safety committee meeting in Oregon last week, Matt Heyrman, public safety director for the county, said a consolidated system would be a safer, more cost effective and more efficient.
        Tim TenEyck an Oregon dispatcher, said at the council meeting on Monday that he did not think the city would benefit at all from a consolidated system.
        “Does anybody here think, right now, that you’d be safer with a consolidated system if you were at your house and the damn thing was on fire?” said TenEyck. “When you need a rescue squad, when your house is getting broken into, and someone has a gun to your head, are you going to be safer with a consolidated system? You’re not safer with a consolidated system.”
        Councilman James Seaman said the consolidated plan was just another way for the county and Toledo to control other communities.
        “Ten years ago, they tried to push this thing called Unigov,” said Seaman.
        Unigov was a plan promoted by the county and Toledo to merge government services into a single centralized jurisdiction. Many local governments were opposed, thinking it benefited mostly the county and Toledo.
         “It failed then. Nobody wanted it. We don’t want it now. That’s what this is trying to be – a unigovernment. The people downtown would have control over everything. And that’s not what we want. We have our own water system, and our own 911 system,” said Seaman.
        Mayor Mike Seferian said there was a “real mistrust” among Oregon residents with Lucas County and Toledo.
        “That’s just a given. People from Oregon tend to not trust Lucas County nor do they tend to trust the City of Toledo. It goes back to the time when we created our own water treatment plant. It’s a very deep seated feeling.”
        When the county was trying to create a regional water system, Seferian said he went to a meeting to “hear what they had to say.”
        “I said very calmly at the beginning of that meeting that we were 100 percent opting out of this. You don’t have to call us. I walked away. I was the only one who walked away. There were probably 260 people in the room. We will not be taken over by the City of Toledo or Lucas County.”
        Councilman Tim Zale, a retired Oregon police officer, said consolidation could be good for other communities.
        “I just don’t think this is the best thing for our community. I think we do very well in what we do. I don’t think the money savings they were trying to tell us that we would have would really amount to that much versus the service that we supply to the public and our police department,” said Zale, who sponsored the resolution with Councilwoman Kathy Pollauf.
        “It really does look good on paper,” Pollauf said of consolidation. “But when you look at the way things are going now, and we hear the opinions of those who work with it every single day. That’s what matters. No amount of money is worth a life. At this time, I feel it’s not right for Oregon.”
Other issues
        Councilwoman Sandy Bihn said she was conflicted over the issue.
        “I think it’s important for everyone to know that the dispatch system is great here. The people are responsive and they do their very best. They know us and they can serve us very well. That’s a fact. But the fact also is that we have a serious problem with response times at some of our stations that need to be addressed. I think we shouldn’t be under the illusion that because we have a great dispatch system necessarily means that the rest of the system isn’t challenged. I long for the fire department personnel we used to have in terms people who bonded together to fix a problem. You have gotten together on the dispatch system and supported it and say it’s needed. I support that. But there are other issues that need to be addressed. Get together. We have a new chief and a new system. There’s a new opportunity. Maybe this dispatch issue can bring people together to help to solve those problems as well. I would challenge you to do that.”


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