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Deal with Oxford may save some dispatch employees



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July 31, 2013 - Since about 1983 a throw of a switch will call Oxford's fire dispatch as backup for a Lake Orion emergency situation.

Starting January 1, 2014, this button will be obsolete.

The Lake Orion Village council voted last Monday, July 22, to move forward in collaborative efforts with Oxford administration to negotiate an agreement for Oxford dispatching to become Lake Orion's emergency service provider.

This decision is a result of Orion Township discontinuing its use of Lake Orion's emergency fire dispatching services on May 6. The village received about $98,000 annually for providing the township with this service, and proposed a decrease in cost close to $40,000 at that meeting to keep them on for next year.

As a result in the lost income, Lake Orion is turning to Oxford.

"We presented a proposal that was not a destination point so much as an outline," said Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh. The vote passed 4-2.

The Village of Oxford, village attorney and Chief of Police approved the collaborative effort at the Village of Oxford council meeting Tuesday July 23, and will look at Lake Orion's more developed plan to merge at their next meeting August 13.

"It's another effort of collaboration and joined sharing of services, to be cost effective as possible and to keep the level of service up as high as possible," said Village of Oxford Manager Joe Young. The village will approve negotiations if Lake Orion provides a statement of fees that are appropriate for the services Oxford will provide. The details have yet to be etched out.

"I am only being private with that out of respect to the negation process with the employees and unions, I don't want to get into the specifics of what exactly it will be because I don't know them," Narsh said.

The Village of Oxford's dispatch center is only three miles up the road, and both dispatch in almost exactly the same fashion, he also commented.

"What makes a dispatch center effective for the Lake Orion community is the person that sits in that chair and the policies that govern that center that makes it faster. That being said, Oxford and Lake Orion had very similar policies," he said.

Lake Orion and Oxford emergency dispatching have been redundancy centers—backup services for each other—as long as fire trucks had radios, he said.

Lake Orion and Oxford already collaborate with each other for other services, such as mutual aid agreements and routine practices with the police department almost daily.

Currently two full-time dispatchers, two "32-hour" dispatchers and five part-time dispatchers work for Lake Orion.

"I would love any agency that we go to to hire all of them but that's not a realistic expectation," Narsh said. "But the ability to hire one or more would be a bonus."

Existing employment is part of the negotiation process underway.

"There's a lot of talent and a lot of horsepower here, and they would be a valuable asset to a dispatch center," he said.

Lake Orion's deadline to complete and approve the collaborative plan between the neighboring communities is August 21. Costs will be determined partially by the overall impact on Oxford's dispatch center and any other residual factors they would need compensation for, including whether they would need additional staff for the extra 3,000 residents of Lake Orion.

Other 911 centers, such as Oakland County's or Waterford's, were also discussed at the Village Council meeting as possible centers to use, but Oxford is Narsh's first choice.

"I believe that we will come up with a proposal that will make economic sense to Oxford, economic sense to Lake Orion, and will be a benefit to both communities," Narsh said. "Based on the history and the knowledge, we don't have to recreate the wheel, it's just a natural fit."

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