Nearly $1 million could be saved for the taxpayers of Allen County, Ohio, according to a study completed by a team of ONU students and professors in the James F. Dicke College of Business Administration. The study has sparked a political discussion that could change the configuration of emergency dispatching in the county.
Working under a $21,994.56 federal grant awarded through the Allen County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the team headed by Dr. Paul Govekar and Professor Roger Young, researched the economic and financial feasibility of combining Allen County’s multiple dispatch services into a single center.
Graduating senior Erin Milroy, an accounting major from Saginaw, Mich., senior Kristin Partee, an accounting major from Napoleon, Ohio, and junior John Stanovich, a management major from Lima, Ohio, joined their professors in visiting the six emergency dispatch locations in Allen County, plus a centralized center in Dublin, Ohio.
They met with dispatchers, police and fire chiefs to understand how dispatch centers function. “After the visits,” Stanovich says, “we were responsible for compiling and analyzing the financial and call volume data for each facility and putting together the report in an attempt to determine whether Allen County would benefit financially from switching to a centralized dispatch operation.”
Milroy said, “I gained a better understanding and a larger appreciation of the work dispatchers and other involved individuals do to get citizens the help they need.”
The project that began in September 2009, ended with a formal presentation on May 11, 2010, to Allen County elected officials, police and fire chiefs and dispatch center employees. “We had to make sure that the study and presentation were of the highest possible quality,” Stanovich added. “We made sure we knew the information we were presenting inside and out.”
Partee added, “It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to know that my work is appreciated and can actually save the citizens of Allen County a substantial amount of money.”
The report revealed that current costs total $2,112,067 per year with the majority of costs going to employee salary and benefits for 38 full time and 8 part time dispatchers. Centralizing the system could reduce the number of dispatchers to 17 with three supervisors and could lead to a savings of $941,508, Young said.
“The team assumed the start-up would be in stages and located either in Allen County or Lima city,” he said. “Best practices in the industry say that to be sustainable in the long run, the facility should be an entity that is separate and distinct from the organizations from which it is formed and governed by a board of directors which is chosen from the municipalities that are served.”
The team also suggested that call-for-service should be the determining factor in charging out the centralized services.
Govekar added, “This study was just the first of many steps in moving toward a centralized dispatch system in Allen County. According to the individuals we talked to, this idea has been talked about for many years, but no one had any hard numbers to say it was feasible or not. This study provided the hard numbers. Now it is up to the various jurisdictions to decide whether or not they wish to pursue this option.”