Garrettsville – Garrettsville Village Council was faced with a tough decision at their last meeting– whether or not to disband Garrettsville’s dispatch center.  Garrettsville’s Police Chief and several police officers, Safety committee members and both chiefs from the Community EMS District and Garrettsville-Freedom-Nelson Joint Fire District (GFNJFD), and Windham Council President, Debbie Blewett, were in attendance at last Wednesday night’s meeting awaiting Garrettsville Village Council’s final determination.

The first mention of impending changes to how dispatch services are handled in the state was last year during discussions concerning the village’s feared budget shortfall.  At that time, one of the options presented by the police department to save money was to cut the dispatch center.

The village having its own dispatch service is a bit of an anomaly.  Most communities in Ohio have moved to centralized dispatch centers called PSAPs (Public Safety Access Points) that handle multiple departments within their counties.   Currently, even though no finalized plan has been approved, legislation has been passed by the state that would require upgrades in equipment, additional annual training for personnel and the hiring of additional personnel to keep Garrettsville’s dispatch service operational.

The changes soon to be implemented were reviewed and discussed at the last Safety Committee meeting.  Members of the committee determined that the amount of money required to upgrade equipment and personnel would be substantial and have recommended to council that the best course of action would be for Garrettsville to move its dispatch to a centralized PSAP.

Council members voiced concern about the options for Garrettsville’s Police Department, G-F-N JFD, Community EMS and the Windham Police Department that currently use Garrettsville’s dispatch services.  Though currently there is no ‘drop dead date’ for compliance to the legislated changes, council decided that they should be prepared and not leave things “up in the air”.

After much discussion and reviewing the situation and the options, council voted unanimously to disband Garrettsville’s dispatch center.  The target date for disbandment is July 15, 2016 which allows 120 days’ notice to the affected departments.

All the affected entities have been seeking options and alternatives for their dispatch services and are in process of relocating them.  Chief Milicia reported Garrettsville’s Police Department is looking to the county sheriff’s department for dispatch.  GFNJFD Chief Freis and Community EMS Chief Sanchez reported that because they often respond jointly and assist each other on calls they will stay together in their search for dispatch services, the current top contender is Ravenna City Dispatch, however nothing has been finalized.  Windham Police have been in contact with Trumbull County hoping to work out an agreement.

In other business also on the agenda, was first reading of Proposed Ordinance 2016-08.  This proposed ordinance would waive Board of Zoning Appeals fees for certain substandard lots in the R2 Zoning District.  When minimum buildable lot size was changed to a half acre in 1996 several existing lots were technically rendered “unbuildable”.  The Board of Zoning Appeals and the Planning Commission recommended to council that the $250 fee usually required for a variance hearing on buildable lot size be waived for all such lots.

Council placed on second read proposed Ordinance 2016-06, regarding clarification and re-delegation of duties in the Village Clerk –Treasurer’s Office and passed Ordinance 2016-07 pertaining to compensation rates for employees of the Village and Board of Trustees of Public Affairs.

During roundtable discussion, Councilwoman Becky Harrington informed council about concerns she has with complaints she received about the police not assisting with traffic at the high school during dismissal.  Harrington directed her comments to Police Chief Tony Milicia who was present in the audience.  Harrington told the chief she was approached because of safety concerns with students crossing SR 88 and also students trying to exit from the school’s parking lot, she wanted to know “when and why” assistance from the police department for the afternoon high school traffic and students crossing the street stopped.  Milicia told Harrington that when he originally had talked with officials at the school they understood that the traffic assistance was offered only if an officer was available.  He went on to say that the department had been getting “a bunch of calls right around 2-2:30 lately” but he also said he would do his best to get the officer on duty to the school as much as possible.   Harrington challenged, saying she was told that the assistance stopped when the levy didn’t pass (last November).   Milicia was adamant that was not the issue but was unable to provide information on how often the police had assisted with high school traffic since the levy was voted down.    Milicia reminded council that having an officer at the school was never a guarantee and assured that the absence of an officer for traffic assistance was not related to the levy in any way.  Harrington told the chief that she would pass on that information to the people who had approached her.

If you’d like to know more of what is happening in your community, attend a meeting.  The next regular Village Council meeting is scheduled for April 13, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall.