By Jeff Gallatin
Mayor Debbie Sutherland said it’s highly unlikely Bay Village will be participating in the study of a joint police and fire dispatch center that North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy wants area cities to consider.
“It’s not something I think we would be participating in,” she said. “It’s not something which I believe would be feasible for our city.”
Kennedy said having a joint police and fire dispatch center could benefit multiple cities.
“The important thing to remember about this is that it would be a joint dispatch center for police and fire departments,” he said. “It would handle calls for all the safety forces, not just police or fire.”
Sutherland said she would discuss it with mayors from other area cities who participate in the fire dispatch center at St. John Medical Center. In addition to Bay Village, Cuyahoga County cities include Fairview Park, Rocky River and Westlake. In Lorain County, North Ridgeville also is in the St. John group, but was not contacted for participation in the study, which Kennedy only proposed to Cuyahoga County communities.
“I can’t see how it would be economically beneficial at this point to our city and others in the Westcom dispatch center to join another group, but I’m sure we will discuss it at some point,” Sutherland said. “It might be something which he could do with some of the other communities which he has involved in the discussion.”
Kennedy and Olmsted Township officials sent a letter to the other Westshore cities and other nearby communities like Berea, Brookpark, Lakewood and Olmsted Falls in mid-May, asking if they would be interested in jointly seeking funds from Cuyahoga County to conduct a “business-like” study of whether a joint police and fire safety dispatch center would be work for area communities.
Sutherland said she has concerns about the staffing issues in any potential dispatch center, as well as how Cuyahoga County is progressing on joint dispatch proposals. She cited one portion of Kennedy’s proposal, which notes many cities like Bay Village currently use police officers to handle dispatch responsibilities for their communities.
“In our case, we need to have an officer at the station,” she said. “We have a lot of walk-up traffic to our window which they deal with, which other cities do as well. And we also have a jail, which means having an officer there is the better course of action. I know several other cities also have jails which they like to have an officer available for as well.”
She also noted that Cuyahoga County officials have discussed reducing the number of dispatch centers in the county to four. However, Sutherland said county study of the issue hasn’t progressed as far as she’d like.
“Before we even consider participating in something like that, I’d really like to see more information as to how that could be handled and how it could benefit any communities participating in that kind of action,” she said.
After receiving the letter, some Rocky River officials said having Kennedy propose a regional center was ironic to them, considering he had pulled out the Rocky River Municipal Court to form a separate North Olmsted mayor’s court.
Kennedy said his focus is on getting a good study that would review the idea as to how it benefits several cities.
“For those who would say North Olmsted chose not to take part in a regional fire dispatch or fire department, I would just say that this will look at a joint center for police and fire and how having them together could be better economically.”