Washtenaw County getting $177K state grant for police dispatch merger with Ann Arbor
Washtenaw County will receive $177,500 in incentive funding from the state of Michigan for merging police dispatch operations with the city of Ann Arbor.
The county board voted unanimously Wednesday night to ratify the grant award from the state's Economic Vitality Incentive Program, an initiative championed by Gov. Rick Snyder to push local governments to collaborate and combine operations.
The money is expected to cover transition costs as the city and county merge dispatch operations starting this month. The merger was approved back in December.
The city and the county jointly applied to the Michigan Department of Treasury for nearly $700,000 from the EVIP program but were awarded only a quarter of that.
Ann Arbor requested $500,000 for transition costs related to paying out costs for terminated employees. That request was denied.
But the county won funding for three of its requests, including $65,000 for an outside consultant, Kerry Laycock, to act as project manager, $37,500 for costs related to new dispatch coordinator positions, and $75,000 to hire an instructional design consultant who is redoing the Sheriff's Communications Training Officer program, as well as a portion of the employee wages for time spent cross-training dispatchers.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
"For the last 20 years, we've been trying to regionalize dispatch in Washtenaw County and Sheriff Clayton's leadership really helped that process come together quickly and effectively," he said. "It saves each participating jurisdiction thousands upon thousands of dollars. And the governor recognized their work with an EVIP grant, which is a competitive award acknowledging collaboration amongst local units of government."
In a special message to the Legislature on Wednesday, Snyder recommended Michigan lawmakers place priority on taking $10 million of the total $25 million EVIP funding and investing it in local public safety.
Clayton provided a history of police dispatch services in Washtenaw County in a memo to the board. He noted the Sheriff’s Office has been providing police dispatch services since the advent of mobile radio communications for patrol cars in the early 1950s.
In 1989, the sheriff's dispatch center began providing enhanced 911 call-taking operations, and a year later Washtenaw Central Dispatch was created as an inter-local authority. It soon began providing dispatch services for the Michigan State Police, Northfield Township Police Department and Huron-Clinton Metroparks Police, along with numerous sheriff patrol units.
Clayton said the first real attempt to combine all of the county's public safety dispatching operations occurred in 1994 when civic leaders from Washtenaw County, the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Saline and Milan, Pittsfield Township and the Village of Chelsea met to discuss how feasible and economically beneficial such a system could be for the county.
After several years of discussion, the initiative failed, Clayton said, as did a second attempt to merge dispatch operations in 2000.
In February 2010, the county integrated police dispatch services for Ypsilanti into its central dispatch. The county later co-located dispatch operations with Ann Arbor's Police Communications Center in May 2010, which created Washtenaw Metro Dispatch.
Clayton said those initiatives were undertaken to improve efficiency, enhance the quality of service, and reduce the cost of doing business for all involved agencies.
Under a separate resolution Wednesday, the county board approved agreements with the Michigan Public Safety Communication System that permit the county to merge its radio communication system into the MPSCS system and to receive credits for future costs.
County voters in May 2006 approved a dedicated millage of 0.2 mills for a 10-year period to pay for improvements to a countywide 800 MHz radio communication system. At the time, it was explained that should the millage pass, the upgraded countywide radio system would be merged into the existing MPSCS statewide system.
While not directly related to the merger of police dispatch operations between Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, it serves an inter-related purpose, Smith said.
"When you have a call come in to dispatch from a 911 emergency, that has to get out to the emergency professionals in the field," he said. "So now we've got a unified system for collecting 911 and everybody is on the same communications systems to field those calls, so it's highly effective and highly streamlined — really doing government well."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.