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Posted on Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 3:14 p.m.

Ypsilanti considers moving emergency dispatchers to county

By David Wak

Cash-strapped Ypsilanti is considering moving its four police and fire dispatchers to Washtenaw County Central Dispatch to save $79,000 annually.

Ypsilanti Interim Police Chief Paul DeRidder gave a presentation to City Council Tuesday, outlining the benefits of such a move. He said emergency calls would go through the county dispatch center instead of the Ypsilanti Police Department, but residents wouldn't see any decreased service from the move.

If the city decides to go with the county, it would enter into a four-year contract at $73,000 per year. The council may discuss and vote on it at its next meeting on Dec. 15.

Currently, the city's four dispatchers handle all emergency calls for both the police and fire departments. City officials say the move will save $160,000 in costs for the four dispatchers, but the city will lose $70,000 in special state revenues it gets from running its own dispatch center.

Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton, who was on hand at the meeting, said the Sheriff's Department wants to eventually handle all police dispatching in the county, while Huron Valley Ambulance would handle fire and medical dispatch services.


Ypsilanti is considering moving its dispatch operations to Washtenaw County. County dispatcher Christopher Murchison is pictured in this 2008 file photo.

File photo

Clayton said a regional system would help eliminate communication breakdowns and duplication of services between police agencies.

"I think that gets in the way of smart, efficient service," Clayton said.

Ypsilanti police would still handle non-emergency calls using officers and office staff, and residents could use the emergency call button at the lobby of the police station when it's closed to route calls directly to the sheriff's dispatch center.

DeRidder said the dispatchers, who would work for the county, would see benefits from the move. But he said it would cost the city $25,000 to buy out the dispatchers before they went to work for the county.

DeRidder said dispatchers are sometimes overworked with 12-hour shifts, and often only one dispatcher is on duty. When dispatchers take time off or are sick, their shifts have been filled by police officers, which drives up overtime costs and leaves fewer cops on the street, DeRidder said.

If the dispatchers work for the county, they'll see a pay increase from $44,000 to $51,000, but will lose their seniority, DeRidder said. He also said they'll be part of a larger team of 17 dispatchers.

Several council members asked for more details.

Council Member Brian Robb asked DeRidder what costs the city would incur if it opted out of the county system after four years. DeRidder said he didn't have figures, but those costs would be significant.

Ypsilanti firefighter Ken Hobbs, president of the Firefighters Union Local 401, said the fire department has been requesting to move its dispatch to HVA for years.

Currently, the fire department pays $106,000 annually out of its budget for dispatching, while it would only cost $36,000 to use HVA for the same service, Hobbs said.

Several residents spoke out against the idea. They expressed concern that police response would be slowed down in emergencies, and local response to non-emergency calls would also suffer.

Resident Sheranda King said going through the county would create too many roadblocks for city police to respond to emergency calls.

"Any time you add another step, it increases response time," King said.

David Wak is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 4:59 a.m.

Scole: It's not a reduction in service. The other agencies(dispatch centers) are all on push button, meaning they just press a button and it rings. The other option that everyone uses is what is called PSCALL. This is a talkgroup on the current 800MHz system that is an inter-agency talkgroup. Everyone uses it and it is efficient. The problem that I am seeing with this is it is a day late and a dollar short. A Central Dispatch should have been set up years ago, but the sheriff at the time was too wound up in the politicalness of everything, just as Jerry Clayton is today. The sheriff department has too much out there to worry about a Central Dispatch right now, maybe in a few years when the economy recovers and jobs come back to our area then they can go with the idea. In the meantime working the details out till that point is OK. What about other options? Did the city look to Pittsfield or even EMU? Why not support EMU? They are hiring 4 police dispatchers right now!! Either let EMU dispatch for them at probably a much less fee than the county. Or YPD could pick up a little bit of money and dispatch for EMU. There are lots of options out there and I have not even seen any of them discussed and I don't think it's a good idea to just tag one idea and just run with it. It comes at a bad economic time and it's just not the proper decision to make right now. No offense to the LT, but all of this should be discussed with the New Police Chief. You indicate better service, do you know how many people the county has turned down in hiring? Do you know that their people currently are OVERWORKED TOO?? Of coarse not, they are not going to tell you that. It's not better service it is a POWER GRAB is all it is. Like I said, the idea of a "Central Dispatch" for PD is nice sounding and could potentially work out, just not now...the time is not right.

Get Real

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 10:56 a.m.

Why is it that NONE of the involved dispatchers want to make this move??? Does anyone care about their concerns and desires. Ypsi Realist you are right..there are many ineffective public safety methods being deployed currently at YPD and other municipalities. All the more reason for new leadership at YPD.


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 10:11 a.m.

@Get Real I would assume it was kept on the d/l for a multitude of reasons. One being; they knew it would illicit a knee-jerk reaction from a minority of residents and employees that cannot handle change. The fact of the matter is that some of the public safety methods that are in place now in the city of Ypsilanti (as well as most other municipalities in Washtenaw County) are ineffective, redundant, reactionary and in many instances downright dangerous to both the public and the employees.

Get Real

Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 10:37 p.m.

It wasnt just the residents that didnt know about this move. Council nor the mayor knew about it until very recently and are now getting sucked into buying it. If this is so "GENIUS" why was it such a secret???


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 9:10 p.m.

While some people are looking at the cost or savings.....other things need to be considered..or safety, respond times and what about the closing of the Ypsilanti police department? why did DeRidder and a few others feel the need to keep this on the down low? many residents didn't even know about this until the cat was let of of the bag??


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 4:21 p.m.

Reddog801,do you even know what you are talking about? HVA has been doing a wonderful job dispatching the local FD's. There is more efficient communication between the FD and EMS crews with just one dispatch center working for both agencies.And what is this crap about "specialized fire dispatching"? The majority of calls that come in to the FD are medical emergencies. I highly doubt it would make a huge difference if the dispatcher is "Fire certified".


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 1:58 p.m.

Cooperation and sharing of services makes good financial sense. Why duplicate a service that already there? What many people don't know is that Dispatchers for Ypsilanti City are overworked and underpaid. Their attention is spread way too thin on their many work duties, and quality suffers. Why not have them join the Sheriff dispatch where they can actually take a 5 minute restroom break during their shift? Make more money and save the city some in the process, absolutley!


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 9:51 a.m.

One can lose 12 years of seniority or one can lose their job. From what I am reading the bump in salary, bump in pay, extra bodies within the 911 center, etc is not a bad deal at all. The city of Ypsilanti is struggling daily to cut paychecks and maintain services. Nothing is going to change. There is no growth. Ypsilanti is land-locked by two charter townships and the EMU campus continues to expand their tax-free footprint throughout the city. Personally I think this is the best compromise any line-level employee could receive considering the circumstances. I'm sure there are a lot of other more painful options that were never entertained by the powers that be. Bottom line is they still have a job. Be thankful, there are many others that are checking their mailboxes for an unemployment check that will soon stop coming.

Get Real

Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 7:36 p.m.

The city needs to slow down a little and take a hard look at this move...supposedly with the motive of saving money. There are many other ways for the department to save money. This can at least wait until the new police chief is hired and in placed. Dispatching has been a long established tradition and practice within the police department. These dedicated dispatchers have contributed greatly to the high quality of life and service expected by the residents. They deserve more consideration and not just rushed and pushed out of the department. How would you like to lose 12 years of seniority? This could be a step towards getting rid of the department entirely. A city without a police department is a city without security. Will people want to live, work or visit Ypsilanti if the long established police department were also gone?


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 7:20 p.m.

Congratulations to Ypsilanti for recognizing ways to save and not letting ego and power get in the way of savings for citizens. I am wondering if the next step wouldn't be consolidating with the county sheriff for the entire department. Can Ypsilanti afford their own police department and the related expenses? The costs must be astronomical.


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 5:57 p.m.

While consolidation in itself is not a bad idea I believe this is a horrible decision by the City of Ypsilanti. First thing that needs to happen is they need to get a Police Chief in there. One that can make sound decisions. 2 they need to get decent people in the city council. Don't just make the decision to consolidate because that is what's happening today. Ypsilanti Police done a study on whether it would be beneficial for them and other communities around the area to start their own police department. The study still sits on the cities website. It says that it is beneficial. Why not look at that option? For the Fire department. Hearing that the FD has wanted to switch to HVA for years I believe is incorrect. I have never ever heard that before. HVA is currently looking at $$$$. Their EMS dispatchers are NOT fire certified, they have NO fire training. Nor do they have any Fire Dispatch training. They have been dispatching now for 6 department for many years because the sheriff department decided they did not want to. Even though the contract states that they are Central Dispatch for Police and Fire. Not HVA. There is no other EMS org in the country that have the power that HVA does, and this is sad. They need to focus on EMS and not dipping their hands into other areas. Our police and fire departments are our first line of defense. You put more inbetween that and it becomes a problem. Ypsilanti, there are more ways to do this. The study has been completed why not review it. The sheriff department is already in the middle of their own share of problems, those problems are not going to go away and will probably get worse. Utilizing the sheriff department is not the correct thing to do at this point in time.


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 5:35 p.m.

This is a win win situation. If you aren't sure, do a little local research, and I'm confident the right decision will prevail.

John Galt

Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 5:21 p.m.

This type of condolidation could also be applied to many of the services in the various local communities. It would cut back on duplicate overhead expenses, allow for economy of scale, etc.


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 4:46 p.m.

ypsilanti is a great place to live.. if we can save money and get better service then lets do it.. good move

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 4:14 p.m.

makes sense, cell phone 911 calls mostly get routed through the county anyway. if you are in the city, supposedly, they go right to ypd which dispatches fire too. why can't the city negotiate seniority to go w/the move? or would these dispatchers still be able to pick up the vested part of their pensions (i assume)


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 4:10 p.m.

While this may sound like a reduction in service to some, combined dispatch centers often improve efficiency. Right now if a Ypsilanti PD dispatcher needs to verify something with another agency they have to call another department, wait for an answer, find the right person, then start a conversation. In a joint center, they look at the next desk over and say "What about such and such?" if they don't already know the answer from being in the same room. As far as police response, a 911 call would still be answered by a dispatcher, and they would send appropriate units, just like now, no steps added. Better service, lower cost (how often does that actually happen?), and better pay and working conditions for our dispatchers (who deserve anything we can do for them). Genius!