Will the Zanesville and Muskingum County dispatch centers be consolidated into one? That’s the question that was brought up Wednesday afternoon at the Dispatch Task Force’s first meeting.
The issue has the potential of causing quite a power struggle between both law enforcement agencies, but they were able to sit down with other local officials and see if the option is feasible.
"We’re one community. Find ways that we can better serve our people. We all have less resources," says Muskingum County Commissioner, Brian Hill.
Hill says it was refreshing to see both sides at the table, willing to talk,
but emotions were running high.
"I think the option of just turning everything over to the county is a mistake. I think it will be a poor service. I think it would be an injustice to the citizens of Zanesville," says Zanesville Police Chief, Eric Lambes.
Several concerns were raised about the quality of service one combined dispatch center would provide over two.
"If our system would go down, we could actually go to the county, and they could assist us with dispatching through their radio and vice versa. It’s great to have back-up systems, and now for somebody to tell me that’s no longer necessary, it doesn’t really seem right to me, " says Lambes.
"There’s a lot of logistics. A lot of computer systems and radio systems that would have to be mixed and mingled," says Muskingum County Sheriff, Matt Lutz.
Both dispatch centers use different frequencies. There’s also labor union issues to hack out between two sets of employees, but there’s more of this combination going on across the state. Muskingum County Emergency Management Agency Director, Bo Keck, says Mercer County just finished that transformation. He says fFanklin, Hamilton, and Union counties have started merging with some of its local entities.
Muskingum County Sheriff, Matt Lutz, says he wants residents to know the county isn’t trying to take over the city.
"We were approached about whether or not we could help the city," says Lutz.
Helping the city out financially, and that’s something that still needs to be determined: if this option is cost-effective. All that remains out there right now is a lot of what if’s.
"All those things will have to be dealt with. We may be several months or years getting something accomplished, or we may decide in a few months that this is not good," says Hill.
The city’s dispatch center currently holds 10 positions while the county’s houses 13.
Both sides agree that they want to have a third party come in and explore the option further. If the city and the county do decide to combine the dispatch centers into one, it could open a lot of doors for grants to fund the project.