Franklin County enters 2019 with two new commissioners set to come on board after the 2018 elections.
This past year saw Franklin County continue to find ways to be more fiscally prudent by passing a nearly flat budget for 2019. The county moved the dispatch center from under the guidance of the Sheriff’s Office to the board of commissioners, which saved money. The new county emergency radio system came on board this past year.
Franklin County voters in the August primary selected Don Stottlemire and Ianne Dickinson to be the new commissioners. Stottlemire’s razor-thin victory over Randy Renoud was not settled until the canvass. Stottlemire, a county commission veteran, lost to Renoud in the 2014 election.
Dickinson emerged victorious over Richard Oglesby, who was appointed 18 months ago, to finish the term of Steve Harris, who was recalled in the 2016 general election.
The biggest reason behind the move of the dispatch center was cost savings.
“We started having discussions what that transfer might look like,” Derek Brown. county administrator, 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.”
Nick Robbins, the county’s ambulance director, was selected to manage the department.
Rick Howard, county commissioner and retired law enforcement officer, said this move will be good for everybody involved.
“Nick runs a good organization,” Rick Howard, county commissioner 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.”
The county purchased a P-25 800 Megahertz system in 2017 to replace the county’s VHF system, which was nearing the end of its lifespan. Alan Radcliffe, county emergency management director, said the P-25 is the same system the state uses and many other counties are looking to move to. The county switched over to the new system in May.
“Within the first hour of using the system the police department assisted a federal law enforcement agency in Ottawa; the capabilities of the system allowed us to communicate with each other and dispatchers while not interfering with call for service radio traffic plus any other events requiring a radio channel,” Adam Weingartner, Ottawa assistant police chief, said.
Sheriff Jeff Richards said the capability of the agencies talking to one another during an emergency makes for a better working environment.
“It helps foster a better working relationship because we can communicate,” he said. “It makes us more efficient.”
Brown said despite payments for the Proximity Park bond issue, the new radio system and estimated payments for a second Proximity Park bond issue, the 2019 budget was flat.
“The budget is something we put months of work into,” Brown said. “To have a final proposed budget that keeps the mill level flat that is even better. This budget will allow us to put some money aside for the many capital needs we have. It has been difficult to do in the last decade or so in some part because our evaluations have not always been on the increase. We are seeing a positive trend. Janet [Paddock] and I are working hard to find organizational efficiencies. Instead of just planning for today and tomorrow, we are looking five, 10, 15 years down the road as well.”
The approved 2018 budget was for 63 mills and Brown said with the increase in property valuations, the mill levy will see a slight decrease once the final numbers are put together.