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Posted on Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County officials hope to merge dispatch operations by February

By Ryan J. Stanton

New details of a proposal to consolidate the city of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County 911 dispatch services surfaced Monday night.

The merger would mean the loss of five full-time dispatch positions, but 10 part-time "call-taker" positions would be created, Police Chief Barnett Jones told members of the Ann Arbor City Council during a special work session.

Transition costs haven't been determined, but the first-year savings to the city is estimated at $400,000, climbing to $550,000 in the second year.

"I've been reducing staff for nearly five and a half years," Jones said, billing the merger as a way to save money and maintain patrol officers on the city's streets. "That was the reason why I had to sit down and start thinking about ideas outside of the box."

Under the plan laid out Monday night, the city would contract with the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office for a period of five to 10 years, starting at $759,089 a year.


Police Chief Barnett Jones is asking the Ann Arbor City Council to approve a merger of city and county dispatch operations.

File photo |

City dispatchers have been unhappy since the proposed merger was first announced in June. Jones said he'd have to cut even more positions if nothing changed, so he sees sending city dispatchers over to the county as the better option.

"Even though they're working for the sheriff's department, another organization, this was going to keep them employed," he said.

Council members gave no indication of where they stand on the proposal during Monday night's work session, though they had several questions.

Mostly, they wanted assurances that dispatchers under the direction of the county would have the knowledge and expertise to safely and effectively handle dispatching calls in Ann Arbor.

"My answer to you is yes," said Sheriff Jerry Clayton, promising to meet national standards for dispatch performance. "I think the sheriff's office has a proven track record."

The merger needs to be voted on by both the City Council and the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. It's uncertain exactly when that might happen, but Jones said the plan is to have the county assume city dispatch responsibilities starting in February.

After a six-month transition period, full integration would be complete next August.

The city and the county already co-located dispatch staff into one center in June 2010 as a cost-savings strategy that allowed the two organizations to leverage required radio system technology improvements and share overhead costs.

Going one step further to completely consolidate dispatch operations, officials say, would help to address common dispatch challenges such as determining the appropriate response jurisdiction based on a caller’s description of whereabouts.

Currently, Ann Arbor's dispatch operation includes one lieutenant who acts as manager, one sergeant who acts as supervisor and 18 full-time dispatchers. The county's dispatch operation includes one supervisor and 17 full-time dispatchers.

Under the proposed merger, there still would be one manager and two supervisors, but the number of full-time dispatchers between the two operations would drop from 35 to 30, while 10 new part-time call-taker positions would be created.

To make sure the transition period goes smoothly, Clayton said the county is willing to guarantee there's an Ann Arbor dispatcher on the county's dispatch desk at all times for the first six months. During that time, the county intends to cross-train both the city and county dispatchers to understand the whole county, including Ann Arbor.

Clayton noted the county went through the same situation after the city of Ypsilanti took the step of contracting with the county for dispatch services in January 2010. He said all the feedback the county has received from Ypsilanti has been positive.

Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, raised questions about call volumes during Monday's work session.

Deputy Police Chief Greg Bazick provided data showing 911 calls handled by the city totaled 39,852 in calendar year 2010, while non-emergency calls totaled 138,974. In all, 67,470 incidents were dispatched — a figure that's down 28.6 percent since 2007.

Meanwhile, the county handled 129,081 emergency 911 calls last year and 139,800 non-emergency calls, with 86,553 incidents dispatched — a figure that's up 24.3 percent. Bazick attributed the increased statistic to the merging of Ypsilanti and county dispatch services.

The sheriff's office has operated Central Dispatch since 1990, providing services to Northfield Township, Michigan State Police, the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority and other jurisdictions under contract. Jones noted both the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University still have their own dispatch operations. He said he hopes in the future they both would join in the consolidated Washtenaw Metro Dispatch operation.


A look at what a merger of the Ann Arbor Police Department and Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office dispatch operations could mean staffing-wise.

According to information presented Monday night, the current minimum staffing level for both the city and county dispatch operations combined is nine people. That would go down to seven under the consolidated plan laid out by Jones and Clayton.

A large part of the savings is expected to come from the elimination of a Law Enforcement Information Network operator in the minimum staffing plan.

The county and city each have a LEIN operator on their dispatch desks at any given time, but only one would be needed going forward. Jones said a LEIN operator is person trained to respond to interagency matters and manage warrants and other sensitive information.

Jones told council members it was in March 2011 when he and the sheriff first began serious discussions about identifying additional efficiencies in dispatch services.

At that time, Jones said he was looking at the city's budget and realizing the police department faced significant reductions in force over the coming years absent cuts elsewhere.

"I was looking at significant reductions in force that would quite possibly have me looking into further layoffs in dispatch and further layoffs in patrol," he said.

The sheriff's dispatch operation, at that same time, was looking to find a way to increase its staff, but it didn't have the budget to do so, Jones said.

The benefit to the county from merging with the city, Jones said, is that it would increase the county's dispatch staff and allow it to realize greater efficiencies. According to Clayton, the merger could end up being cost-neutral for the county, though.

According to information presented at Monday's meeting, the current cost per 911 call for the county is $16.18, while the same cost for the Ann Arbor Police Department is $39.63. Under the consolidated operation, the cost is estimated to be $17.37 per call.

"This is economies of scale," Jones said.

Jones said two new coordinator positions that the sheriff would have from combining the staff would have additional responsibilities that include both quality improvement and training.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


Ginger chase

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

This article is full of lies &partial facts that need to be explained. Why is the cost for AAPD 911 calls $39.63 & the county only $16.18? Is it because the CITY is paying for response time and policies (which the county has very few of) to enforce it happens? WCSD holds property alarms for over an hour at times & are considered low priority, where as AAPD must be dispatch alarms within minutes. If you were paying a monthly monitoring fee, wouldn't you like to know that the police are actually going to respond to your alarm as a priority? And what about the 'rumor' that is circling about the $400,000 or more the City USED to make from parking revenue that is now going straight to WCSD? It is the City's tax dollars that are paying for the employee's doing all the work, why is the City handing their hard earned money over to the county for nothing? It seems that too many citizens are handing over their tax dollars without getting all the facts, as soon as someone says there will be a 'savings' everyone is all about it. By the way…Sheriff Clayton is 'willing' to guarantee an Ann Arbor Dispatcher be on duty for the first 6 months of this so called take over (opps…I mean merger with loss of seniority & pay & get no time off for a year when you have been dispatching for 15-20 years) when you have no idea if anyone from Ann Arbor is willing to sell themselves short & work for a modern day sweat shop. If only 6 dispatchers decide to work for the county, how many hours will they be forced to work to accomplish this??? A lot of people would rather lose their house than work like a dog for the county. Maybe someone should look into why Ann Arbor has dispatchers that have been with the City for years & the county does not. I 'believe' they just lost 3 dispatchers in the last month. About half of the Ann Arbor dispatchers have been employed as long or longer as the counties most senior dispatcher.

Ginger chase

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

This article states the county handled more non-emergent calls than 911 calls. It doesn't state they answered them. I'd be willing to bet that many of the 911 calls were answered by ANN ARBOR DISPATCHERS. Yes, there is technology to prove this. Don't be fooled by the staffing module, is only an estimate or lie to get everyone to vote in their favor. Has anyone put any thought into these 10 part time call takers? If govt forces employers to provide health insurance, something has to give making this model obsolete. It says the county has a proven record for staffing properly…I would like to know where this information came from. When the county 'co-located' with Ann Arbor, they were seriously understaffed, worked 16 days back to back with NO LUNCH/MENTAL BREAKS! This is an extremely stressful job to not deserve a break! Working under these conditions leads to mistakes, fatigue, and lost patience. Check out this article from October 7, 2010: <a href=""></a> Who were the Ann Arbor Dispatchers &amp; who were the County Dispatchers? Lets inform the citizens what they are about to receive when they are in need of help. The dispatcher from Call #2 &amp; #5 clearly sounds exhausted &amp; irritated, almost to the point where one could think she dislikes her job &amp; doesn't care about customer service. I'm not saying she doesn't, it just sounds that way from the 2 calls. She even tells the caller to shut her mouth. The dispatcher should be able to take control of the caller professionally and show some compassion. Clayton says, he thinks the county has a proven track record for performance and they will meet the national standards for staffing. Funny, when the co-location happened, they had less dispatcher's on staff than Ann Arbor did and were expected to provide the same level of service.

Ginger chase

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4:45 p.m.

Correction...that should say the county worked 16 hours back to back, not days.

Joe Kidd

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 3:45 a.m.

&quot;Currently, Ann Arbor's dispatch operation includes one lieutenant who acts as manager, one sergeant who acts as supervisor and 18 full-time dispatchers. The county's dispatch operation includes one supervisor and 17 full-time dispatchers.&quot; I wonder if the Lt and Sgt will be laid off? A chief and two deputy chiefs for a significantly smaller dept? Top heavy Ann Arbor is doing it again. To save you cut at the bottom, the employees who have the most contact with the public. This might work, but actually I think having your own dispatch center is a huge advantage. It may well be worth the money spent. It will be interesting to see if the new dispatch will respond to A2 callers like they are accustomed or how any differences are handled. In over 30 years of residing in the area, A2 gets the nod in re to better service. With WCSD, it would be nice if they could stop by your house when an auto accident occurs on your property, knock on the door, or leave a note, especially when debris is left in your yard. And if you call to report at crime you are not talked out of getting a response. Calling for a non 911 request for service at WCSD means you push buttons through an automated system rather than get a person, which I get when I call A2PD. Hope that changes. Perhaps the state should look at why we elect sheriffs. Why is it that in all municipalities the chief police officer is hired by an elected body, except sheriffs? The answer is it goes back to England and has been adopted here. I would like to see that changed and put the sheriff in the same position as all other police chiefs.

Bob Martel

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

While it may be sad for the affected employees who will lose their jobs, overpaying for a municipal service which can be provided more efficiently via a merger makes no economic sense and is unfair to the other 340,000 City &amp; County residents. While the article does not specifically address the issue of pay for the transferred employees, I am assuming that the County and City pay and benefits are roughly comparable and that the savings are coming from headcount reductions. This latter assumption appears to be supported by the arithmetic of the number of full time positions to be eliminated. One things that the article did not cover very clearly was the logic behind the move to add 10 part time positions vs. the full time positions that will be eliminated. Are they just substituting &quot;lower paid&quot; labor (part time) for higher paid labor (full time) who will be doing the same work for less pay than before? Or are those new positions being re-designed to make certain tasks appropriate for a PT position vs. full time? If it's the former, I might have a problem with that. If it's the latter, that's just being a good manager. Our politicians and public servants owe nothing less to the City &amp; County taxpayers and residents than a reasonable return on tax dollars spent. Condoning wasteful spending and head-count padding as part of some misguided jobs-program is counterproductive.

Thick Candy Shell

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 1:44 a.m.

Not even close to the same! Look it up, the City employee's will take at least a $7 dollar per hour pay reduction as they are now &quot;entry&quot; level employees. In addition, they loose all seniority which means that people will be doing the same job they have always done for 20+ years will be back on a midnight shift. I understand the need for cost cutting and that is fine, but to eliminate seniority for someone who is well into their career is bad as is the slashing of wages.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 8:41 p.m.

It would be a great idea to merge other services including merger/elimination of the Ann Arbor mayor and city council. This reduction could free up more funds for public art! The dispatch consolidation is a good idea. It would be interesting for the Ann Arbor news to look further into the talks to see if additional consolidation of the AAPD and Sheriffs office might be under consideration.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 6:40 p.m.

For anyone interested, here's a list of other areas where the city is collaborating with other governmental partners. This documented was provided to me by the city. <a href=""></a>


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 5:13 p.m.

&quot;Transition costs haven't been determined, but the first-year savings to the city is estimated at $400,000, climbing to $550,000 in the second year.&quot; How much is the city actually going to save when they will have to fight court battles and arbitration battles? The cost savings then will be significantly reduced the first year. What will happen if the city loses either in court or in arbitration?


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

Since the city and the county have mutual departments like fleet services, attorneys, police, zoning, council-board of commissioners, street services, mayor=county adminstrator, why don't they just merge all the services. Man how much money could they save that way?


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 3:05 p.m.

Same old story get rid of full time employees with years of service and with benefits and hire new part time employees with out benefits. Everyone thinks by doing this you are saving money. But, in the end you are hurting the public.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 3:52 p.m.

Just exactly how does paying more in benefits to public employees help the public (taxpayers)? I can see where it is a good deal for the public employees, and their unions, and the politicians that get campaign contributions from those unions, but I don't see how it is good for the public.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

The Border Patrol dispatches their entire U.S. patrol force from one center in Battle Creek. This makes total sense.

Thick Candy Shell

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 1:34 a.m.

You sir are completely wrong. I wanted to make sure before I responded, but my friend in the Border Patrol in Nogalas, AZ informed me that every station has a local dispatch. Where ever you heard that is clearly wrong. He talked to his dispatcher today face to face and he was in AZ.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

It's funny that the council was concerned that County Dispatchers wouldn't have the &quot;knowledge and expertise to safely and effective handle dispatching calls in Ann Arbor.&quot; I'm pretty certain that if they can handle the shootings, armed robberies, and home invasions in Ypsilanti, along with the freeway mess with MSP on snow days, they can handle whatever Ann Arbor throws at them. Agreed, Saline and Pittsfield should join.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 5:15 p.m.

I sure hope so VPark. It is about quality of service and not quantity. I am sure WCSD can handle the quantity of service, but they do lack the quality of service.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

Oh, they just puts in minimal effort? I hopes they learns to gets more informations.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

It's funny that County Dispatchers just puts in minimial effort when they handle dispatch calls and do not provide enough necessary information.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

I hate to say it, but I totally agree with this merger. Everyone should be doing this. With the technology of today the county dispatchers will know who to send out to where. Whether it is local, sheriff or state police. I've been told sometimes state is sent when it was really not necessary unless that region was swamped with calls. Glad to hear Washtenaw is getting on board.

Thick Candy Shell

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 1:29 a.m.

I think we should go one step further, eliminate the AA PD and merge with the WCSD. That would be a savings also!


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

So, let me see if I understand this. The county handled 129K calls with 17 dispatchers and 1 supervisor. The city handled 39K calls with 21 dispatchers and a supervisor and a manager. This is so simple and straightforward that even a politician can see it. Merge the service with the county. They are obviously more efficient at doing the job than the city.

Ginger chase

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 6:36 p.m.

This doesn't say who answered the calls, just that they handeled them. This means the officers/deputies handled the calls. Ann Arbor Dispatchers have been answering the counties 911 calls since they co-located over a year ago. You have been misinformed to believe this is a great idea.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

So WCSD is more efficient because they take phone calls from a larger base of people and area than Ann Arbor? That makes no sense.

try your best

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

So what happens when all these&quot;cost Cutting&quot; decisions are used up and the city has crippled all public safey operations and they still need to cut costs because we know they aren't going to stop building and they aren't doing to stop funding &quot;art&quot;. The time will come when all these other municipalities will start to raise their fees and everybody will say we shoukd have done a better job of managing our services instead of out-sourcing and reducing staffing to unacceptable levels. good luck with all those short-sighted decisions.

Basic Bob

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 1:44 p.m.

Yes, having a manager and supervisor for 18 dispatchers is good management practice that improves response time.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

It's about time our government started thinking about saving money. I am sure that once the transition is complete the five laid off dispatchers will be re-hired since &quot;The sheriff's dispatch operation, at that same time, was looking to find a way to increase its staff, but it didn't have the budget to do so, Jones said.&quot;


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

Another case of with numbers?


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 12:36 p.m.

Thanks, Basic Bob, for the suggestion, but I like having my own dispatchers here in our &quot;our little town&quot;, and am willing to pay &quot;extra&quot; to keep our services here. They know our community, while the &quot;part-time call takers&quot; would be asking questions from a set of computer screens. Thanks anyway.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 11:29 a.m.

So I only scanned the article but how many people are going to be laid off? I distinctly remember City Administrator Crawford saying this was an ugly rumor. What does he have to say now?


Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

I didn't check the facts. Thats why i said I only half read the article. SOOO, How many layoffs? Were dispatchers handed layoff notices this time or just more press releases. What of the dispatchers that put in 15 hard years dispatching for this city? Are they thrown out on the street? Doesn't seem like the right way to treat the employees.


Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 12:19 a.m.

If you check your facts CityFF, you will find that Mr. Crawford was responding to the rumor that all dispatchers were handed layoff notices back in June when they were first notified of this potential consolidation. My understanding is that they were handed press releases, not layoff notices, which is what Mr. Crawford was responding to.

Basic Bob

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 10:34 a.m.

Pittsfield and Saline should join, too.

Larry Kestenbaum

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 10:29 a.m.

This is a sensible and cost-saving consolidation, and I hope the City Council and the Board of Commissioners take favorable action.

Thick Candy Shell

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 1:31 a.m.

Why don't we merge the AAPD into the WCSD and then we can save even more?


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

There are lots of areas where services are duplicated. Can you believe that the city AND county both have a cler's position? They should fire one and have the other do the work of both.