You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Washtenaw County getting $177K state grant for police dispatch merger with Ann Arbor

By Ryan J. Stanton

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.


County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, says he's proud of the work Sheriff Jerry Clayton has done to merge police dispatch operations with Ann Arbor.

Ryan J. Stanton |

County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, gave credit to Sheriff Jerry Clayton for his work on making the merger possible.

"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 Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Frustrated in A2

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

When I see the term "merge" I think of two things joining together. In this case Ann Arbor dispatch is being eliminated and the Sheriff's department is taking over those services. There is no merger when you get rid of every Ann Arbor dispatcher and the ones that are hired by the county lose all of their seniority in addition to starting at the bottom of the pay scale.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

"$75,000 to hire an instructional design consultant who is redoing the Sheriff's Communications Training Officer program..." It's unfortunate that Washtenaw County does not have the sense to keep from hiring dispatch supervisors and administrators who have no dispatch experience at any level, either administratively or behind a console, resulting in the waste of grant money. $75K for an "instructional design consultant"? It's pitiful. Nationally recognized dispatch training programs have already been developed and are in use in some of the most outstanding dispatch centers in the country, in other states. If the county had even one experienced communications administrator onboard, instead of a bunch of retired or soon to be retired police officers and police superviors, this $75K could be directed to other needs. Because the supervisory staff has no dispatch experience, they don't have a clue about how to implement a training program without throwing tens of thousands at a consultant. It's a colossal waste. Washtenaw County, as is the case in much of Michigan, is stuck in a 1950's mentality when it comes to the professional delivery of expert emergency services (Police/Fire/EMS) dispatching. There is no acknowledgement of the fact that police work and dispatching work require two completely different skill sets. They continue to allow police officers with either minimal or no dispatch training to work dispatch shifts, and use dispatch as a place to park cops who are not fit for road duty any more. Even worse, the supervisors and administrators being considered for the new openings know nothing about dispatching, NENA, APCO, best dispatch practices, CAD mapping, etc. etc., having spent their careers behind a badge. Taxpayers and county administrators should demand that the people hired to run and train in this combined center have the appropriate experience and credentials.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Now, if UM could merge their dispatch systems for DPS and Hospital Security, we might be getting somewhere...

Lake Trout

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

Interesting that Sheriff Clayton claims all the credit for pulling this off. Must be putting in 30 hour days... Oh! Maybe he has staff that make him look this good??? Commissioner Smith - would be nice if you were to acknowledge everyone who works hard to accomplish these kinds of projects for the good of the organization as well.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

antikvetch everytime I see conan's face in the news thats the first thing that come to mind. Have you Conan? Paid the money back?


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

"County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, gave credit to Sheriff Jerry Clayton for his work on making the merger possible." And THEN he paid the money back to the county he owes?