Village offers Township dispatch discount

Oxford Township could pay a quarter less for fire and EMS dispatch services if it accepts the village’s recent offer.
At a special Thursday meeting, council voted unanimously to offer a “good faith” 25 percent discount if the dispatch service contract it has with the township and the Oxford Public Fire and EMS Commission is renewed for another five years.
The discount offer means the township could pay $50,250 next year for fire and EMS dispatch services provided by the village police department’s dispatch center.
The township currently pays $67,000 annually for dispatch under the existing contract.
However, included in the village’s discounted offer is an annual 3 percent increase, dubbed a “growth adjustment,” that would take effect from 2005 through 2008 “based on current levels of service.” By 2008, the township would be paying $56,280 for dispatch.
The village’s offer was in response to a Request for Proposal solicited by OPFEC’s dispatch committee.
Although the current dispatch contract with the village doesn’t expire until December 2006, OPFEC formed a dispatch committee in September to review and compare services and make a recommendation as to which provider should handle Oxford’s fire and EMS calls.
The dispatch committee consists of village President Steve Allen, village Councilman Matt Weber, Oxford Fire Capt. Pete Scholz, township resident Sue Bellairs and township trustees Charles Kniffen and Pat Fitchena.
According to Scholz, the committee requested proposals from four dispatch providers and received three – Oxford Village Police, Rochester Hills Fire Department and Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. Lake Orion Village Police chose not to submit a proposal.
Scholz couldn’t release the offers from Rochester Hills and Oakland County yet because all the committee members haven’t seen them yet. The dispatch committee meets 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 26 to receive, review and discuss the proposals. Scholz is hopeful a recommendation can be made by the Dec. 16 OPFEC meeting.
As for why the village chose to lower its price, Allen said, “When the formal proposals came to us, we had the OPD meticulously audit all of the factors including budget, call volumes, etc. When all the information was assembled, we discovered that through increased dispatch efficiencies and increased village police call volumes that the pricing to the township could be lowered.”
“Furthermore, the village wanted to be responsive to the township’s concerns and find a way to address their issues. We as partners, felt that it was in the best interests of the entire community to take a second look,” the council president added.
The township board voted Oct. 22 to advise the village and OPFEC of its “consideration to terminate their present Dispatch Contract as of Nov. 30, 2003, however, with the intent of working with village council for a more amiable contract with cost being a significant factor.”
“We just wanted the village to sharpen their pencils and give us a better deal,” said Supervisor Bill Dunn of the township’s action. “We don’t want them to lose money, but we don’t want them to make a profit either. The township just wants to pay a fair price that covers the expenses (related to handling fire and EMS calls). We have a responsibility as elected officials to get the best deal for the taxpayers.”
As for how the village’s discount offer will affect the decision of which provider will handle dispatch services in the future, Dunn said that’s up to OPFEC and the township board.
“We’ll see what the committee says and how the other board members feel,” he said. “Personally, I’m keeping an open mind, but I like the fact the village lowered their price. That’s good sign.”
Should the township decide to contract with another dispatch provider, Allen said “council has set aside enough funding to keep the current operation intact for one year.”
“After that point we would have to readdress the funding levels of our current local dispatch,” he said. The village’s dispatch budget for 2003-04 is $242,176, of which the township’s current contract represents 27.7 percent.
“The village would prefer not to lose the township as a dispatch customer, but is prepared to continue on if it does occur,” Allen said.
The village president outlined five main reasons council believes village dispatch center is “the best way to go.” They are:
n “The citizens of Oxford have a safe place to go 24/7, 365 days per year. If you check with (Police) Chief (Mike) Neymanowski you will find that the vast number of ‘walk-ins’ are township residents.”
n “Complete familiarity with the community, its residents, its peculiarities, and its nuances is a valuable asset to any community.”
n “Professionalism, turnaround time, and community pride are some of the mainstays of the OPD dispatch.”
n “OPD dispatch prices are all inclusive with no additional charges for phone lines, setup costs, or maintenance fees.”
n “OPD dispatch assumes all liability in providing this service – most others do not.”
Considering Allen’s position as both a village councilman, member of OPFEC and dispatch committee member, this reporter asked him if he will be able to analyze all the dispatch proposals in an objective manner and issue an unbiased recommendation.
“In this instance, I am an OPFEC Commissioner first and a village councilperson second,” he replied. “As a Commissioner, I have to help make a recommendation that benefits the entire community in every way. Costs are important, but not the whole story. Public safety should be our main concern rather than politics as usual.”