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Village gets $65K dispatch grant

September 25, 2013 - It's raining money for the Oxford Village Police dispatch system.

On Tuesday, the state Treasury Department announced the village was awarded a $65,000 grant through the Competitive Grant Assistance Program (CGAP).

CGAP helps offset costs associated with mergers, consolidations, interlocal agreements and cooperative efforts among local units of government and school districts.

The $65,000 was awarded in this case because of the coming consolidation of Oxford and Lake Orion's 9-1-1 services.

Last month, a three-year contract was approved between the two villages which calls for Lake Orion to begin paying Oxford $20,000 annually next year – with 2 percent increases in 2015 and 2016 – to answer all of its 9-1-1 calls and provide police dispatch services for its police department.

Lake Orion will close its dispatch center at the end of the year.

Unlike many grants, the village is not required to provide any matching local funds to receive this state money.

The grant money can be spent in the following manner – $8,000 for merger expenses such as public notices, website and mailings; $20,000 for training; $20,000 for equipment and infrastructure such as phone switch over and adding radio redundancies and channels; $10,000 for contracted services such as Courts and Law Enforcement Management Information System (CLEMIS) and Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN); and $7,000 for a call box and Skype.

"It's great that we're going to have these costs covered," said Oxford Village Manager Joe Young.

As part of the new arrangement with Oxford, Lake Orion will be installing a call box in the lobby of its police station. This will provide a direct link to Oxford's dispatch center as Lake Orion's station will no longer be manned 24-7 by a dispatcher.

In order to keep a face-to-face connection between citizens who walk into the Lake Orion station and the on-duty Oxford dispatcher, Young said they're considering using Skype, an internet-based video-messaging service.

"We talked about that idea," he said.

None of the grant money can be used to pay for wages or benefits associated with existing or new employees. Young said there's money earmarked for training, not for staffing.

According to the Sept. 24 letter the village received from the state, the $20,000 for training "will only be provided for necessary training for the former Lake Orion employees."

Although Oxford agreed "to consider for hire all eligible Lake Orion part-time 911 dispatchers that are currently employed and in good standing," the village is not obligated by the contract to hire and employ them. Oxford retained the right to hire only dispatchers who meet its "hiring criteria and standards."

"We've given them applications, according to (Oxford Police) Chief (Mike) Neymanowski, but nobody's returned any yet," Young said.

Young said right now, the village is looking to fill two or three part-time dispatcher positions.

Right now, Oxford's center is staffed by three full-time dispatchers and three part-timers, according to Young. Normally, the center has six part-time dispatchers.

The grant award represents half of the $130,000 Oxford originally applied for.

Oxford was denied a $15,000 request for administrative costs and a $50,000 request to help pay for an equipment and software upgrade to its dispatch system.

Last month, Oxford's council approved a $114,318 upgrade to its dispatch system. Of that, $50,000 will come from a previous payment that Oxford Township made as part of a legal settlement and $30,000 from 9-1-1 surcharge monies provided by Oakland County. The village will have to make up the difference.

Oxford was among 17 local units of government awarded approximately $6 million through CGAP on Sept. 24.

The purpose of the program is to provide incentive-based grants to stimulate smaller, more efficient government and encourage mergers, consolidations and cooperations between townships, villages, cities, counties, school districts and intermediate school districts.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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