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Opinions diverge on Sylvania Twp. meeting to discuss 911 consolidation plan

Lucas County residents came informed to Tuesday's meeting: some have attended previous meetings, spoke to other consolidated systems and done their research.

TOWNSHIP OF SYLVANIA, Sylvania — Sylvania Township residents heard more about the plan of consolidating all six 911 dispatch centers in Lucas County into one Tuesday at a Board of Trustees meeting after Oregon and Maumee rejected the idea earlier this year. 

Although both Lucas County cities have voted against the proposal, their take counts for just a portion of one vote. 

Sylvania Township, however, gets a vote of their own being the largest township in the consolidation, so trustees wanted to learn more before making their decision. 

Under the current system, there are six dispatch centers answering calls. A consolidation would combine them into one team with designated call takers and dispatchers. 

Lucas County officials say this is best practice and research shows it's safer.

"It's a safer system and we believe it will increase response times," said Matthew Heyrman, Director of Public Safety for the Lucas County Commissioners. "Because while some smaller jurisdictions will be call taking and dispatching simultaneously, if you get the right info from the start, units will better have information gathered, will get the right resource there faster."

While the county has laid out a detailed plan of governance, funding and more, some have concerns. 

Neighbors came informed Tuesday: some have attended previous meetings, spoke to other consolidated systems and done their research. They said they don't feel this is best as they see staffing challenges, geography issues, a loss of service and more.

"We have these concerns because it's their reality in consolidation and they are saying avoid it at all costs," Steve Salander of Oregon said. 

"Four minutes," said Tim TenEyck, an Oregon Dispatcher of his time observing a call on a consolidated system. "It took four minutes from the one the call was answered until the time it was dispatched if you don't think that's a long time sit there four minutes while you think your wife is having a heart attack."

"I can see that Matt and his team has made an attempt to address those issues," said Barbara Orange, a Sylvania Township resident who attended past meetings. "But I'm just not buying it. I'm for less government control and more local control."

Residents, police, fire and others showed up Tuesday night from Oregon, Maumee, Toledo, Lucas County and more to attend the informational meeting and share their thoughts. 

People spoke both for and against consolidation, including law enforcement officers who also spoke from opposite sides.

"All the research that I have says that you avoid consolidation if you have a good PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) that's working for you right now," Maumee Police Chief David Tullis said. 

"This is a big change for me," Capt. Tricia White of the Lucas County Sheriff's Office said. " I would be giving up control of a PSAP. When I took my ego out of this and when I took my fear of change out of it and I was able to look consistently at this and do my own research. I challenge you to do your own research on this, it's a good thing."

While county leaders say this will save about $5.2 million, they also say it's more about the assurance of calls going to the right place, specialization of calls, quality assurance and more. 

Some who are directly impacted by the decision said this feels like the right move.

"I think the most important thing for me that I get our of this is that they are separating call taking and dispatching," said Lt. Steve Kahan with the Sylvania Township Fire Department. "As one of those guys in the trenches that's been in a house with zero visibility and high heat to know the things that we go through I want to know that who I'm talking to somebody on the other end that they are going to answer me right away."

"Nobody should ever doubt that anybody in that building would not care about their officers," Tori Baertschi, supervisor for Toledo Dispatch, said. "It doesn't matter what uniform you wear, we're all the same family...We didn't choose to have this happen. It wasn't Toledo's choice, somewhere in this we became the enemy, we're not the enemy. We're going to be a tough force to work with all of us together."

With so many opinions, Sylvania Township Trustees did not take a vote Tuesday but are expected to reach a decision by late September, according to Lucas County Commissioner Gary Byers.

If approved, the consolidation is expected to take 18 months to implement. 

If you want to read the plan for yourself you can click here.

MORE FROM WTOL:

Oregon and Maumee pass resolutions against proposed dispatcher consolidation plan

City of Oregon considers pros and cons of 911 consolidation