Delayed police dispatch consolidation costs Washtenaw County until Ann Arbor payments start
Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor will consolidate emergency responder dispatch services this July - but that's six months behind the targeted start date set during budgeting.
Now the county is paying toward an agreement that was anticipated to bring in revenue.
First-quarter county budget projections for 2012 show the county has to account for about $1.4 million for the sheriff’s department that it didn’t anticipate, said Tina Gavalier, the county’s financial adviser.
Of that, $660,000 represents funds not yet being collected for the dispatch consolidation, while portions of the rest of the overage represent overtime costs as the new service takes shape.
The reason: Delays in approving the measure now mean the project is six months behind schedule - and the county won't collect payments until the shared service starts July 1.
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners adopted its 2012 budget in November 2011 under the assumption that the county would be receiving that $660,000 for the first six months of the year from the city for managing the service.
However, the city council approved the agreement in December 2011 - and it didn’t come before the Board of Commissioners until Jan. 18.
“There were a lot of things we couldn’t execute until that decision was made,” said Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton Thursday. “The original budget was based on the assumption that there would be an agreement before the first of this year.”
Gavalier emphasized that these were “worst-case scenario estimates.”
“The overtime costs and part time temporary costs are higher due to the delayed consolidation,” Gavalier said, noting the cost is slightly offset by the number of unfilled positions in the department.
Clayton said the sheriff’s office has $1.9 million in vacant positions, and said he won’t fill all of them by the year’s end.
The execution of the agreement - set for July 1 - marks when the city begins to pay for the service. The county is responsible for hiring and training new employees, as well as retraining city and county dispatch employees to cover both jurisdictions.
“We’re still hiring staff, still training staff without getting that revenue from Ann Arbor,” Clayton said.
The sheriff’s office as a whole is hiring 48 employees, about 25 of whom are new. Training takes about three weeks, Clayton said.
“We’re increasing our staff from 13 dispatchers and a supervisor to over 30 employees,” Clayton said. “It just takes time.”
About 10 part-time workers will be hired to do call taking, Laycock said, and they will be used as a staffing pool for full-time consideration in the future.
“In terms of public response, it won’t be faster or slower,” said Laycock.
“We can staff the operation ultimately with fewer people.”
Meanwhile, Steve Powers, Ann Arbor city administrator, said there’s been no official request for additional compensation by the county to the city to cover the county's costs in the interim.
Powers said all of the city’s dispatch employees were given an opportunity to apply to the centralized, county-run dispatch service.
“The hiring decision is the county’s,” Powers said, noting union employees would have to conform to whatever collective bargaining union represents the county dispatch workers.
The dispatchers for both the city and the county have been housed in the same room in the Ann Arbor Fire Department hall downtown since 2010.
Laycock said the employees already have been sharing call-taking duties.
About 10 Ann Arbor city dispatchers have committed to stay on for the consolidated service, Laycock said. One is Ann Arbor Police Lt. Spring Tremaine, who oversees the city’s dispatch center and will be a supervisor in the county-run center, Laycock said.
The projected last day of work for city dispatch employees who haven’t been hired by the county is June 30, Powers said.
Washtenaw County was able to garner $177,500 in incentive funding from Michigan that included $65,000 for Laycock to act as project manager, $37,000 for costs related to the new dispatch coordinator positions and $37,000 to hire a consultant to develop a new training program for the sheriff’s office.