The Franklin County Board of Commissioners Wednesday voted 4-0 to transfer operation of the 911 dispatch center to the board of commissioners.
Derek Brown, county administrator/counselor, said Nick Robbins, the county’s ambulance director, will manage the department.
Franklin County officials said they had been contemplating a transition of the 911 dispatch operations from the sheriff’s office to another department for some time.
“We started having discussions what that transfer might look like,” Brown said. “When we dug into it, we realized that from a management prospect — if we moved it under the board of commissioners — we could run dispatch for almost half the cost that the sheriff could.
“It will be a stand alone department,” Brown said. “[Robbins] will have a second department underneath him.”
Rick Howard, county commissioner and retired law enforcement officer, said this move will be good for everybody involved.
“Nick runs a good organization,” Howard said. “He has good people behind him. The ambulance service will not suffer at all. It will give the sheriff an opportunity to work on other things. Our jail has been running full. It will give the sheriff more time to work to manage the jail and run his department. It was spreading him pretty thin to have to [run] dispatch, jail, and sheriff department.”
Jeff Richards, Franklin County sheriff, was unavailable for comment.
Brown said this shift is not unprecedented.
“There was a time in Franklin County that it was under the board of commissioners,” Brown said. “Then it went to the sheriff. There are several other counties where it is under the board of commissioners. Statutorily, it is not required to be under the sheriff. This is not a novel framework.”
Brown said the timing was right for transition.
“We are in the middle of a couple of large projects both involving dispatch,” Brown said. “One is our new radio system. The next is Nextgen 911 project. Since we are going through all this transition, now would be the time to transition it under the board. It will allow us to streamline our processes there, both fiscally in terms of how we budget and the 911 budget will be under the board of commissioners. That will allow Janet [Paddock, county clerk,] and I a chance to dig in and find efficiencies there. In terms of the service being provided, it will enhance those.”
Brown said the savings realized from the move will be put back into the 911 dispatch center.
“Part of this transition, we will be giving every dispatcher a $1 an hour raise,” Brown said. “It rewards them for a job well done. It is a very difficult job. It gives them extra incentive to want to stay. It allows us to continue to recruit good applicants as we are raising our starting salary.”
Howard said raising the dispatcher salary is a major benefit of the move.
“We can bring the wages up for the dispatchers and bring us more competitive with the area,” Howard said. “We went a long time with a shortage on dispatchers. That hurt us. That is a tough position to be in.”
Brown said one of the attractions is adding an advisory board, which will consist of members of law enforcement, ambulance personnel and firefighters throughout the county.