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Police chiefs happy with new dispatch arrangement

February 12, 2014 - Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh is so pleased with the service the Oxford Village dispatch center has been providing his department, he wrote a complimentary letter that included a request for examples he can share with the media.

"My overall review is 100 percent positive," Narsh wrote in a Feb. 5 e-mail to Oxford Village Manager Joe Young, Police Chief Mike Neymanowski and dispatchers Debbie O'Farrell and Tony VanHouten.

He requested Oxford dispatchers review their calls and service runs to find one that "we can highlight to the media" to show "how well (fast and accurate) the dispatch center is working."

"Be looking for a call . . . where the success of the call/arrest was in part (due to) the quality of the dispatcher and system we are using," Narsh wrote.

"The letter's much appreciated," Neymanowski said.

Oxford's center has been answering all of Lake Orion's 9-1-1 calls and dispatching its police calls since Jan. 6.

For this service, Lake Orion is paying $20,000 this year. It costs Oxford Village approximately $270,000 annually to operate its dispatch center.

During the first month with Oxford, Narsh indicated was "listening, talking with my staff and monitoring citizen feedback."

"I have had no, none, zero negative citizen or LOPD officer feedback or complaints," he wrote.

There are no complaints about the transition on Neymanowski's end, either.

"I think it went very well, as we thought it would," he said.

Neymanowski explained the addition of Lake Orion's call volume to the Oxford center has not posed any problems so far.

In January, he said the Oxford center handled a total of 256 Lake Orion service calls in 26 days, which works out to an average of about 10 per day.

"In my judgment, that's not (a) burden on a one-dispatcher system (like Oxford utilizes)," Neymanowski said. "It hasn't caused any concerns."

Although the Oxford center is generally staffed by one dispatcher per shift, since early January, there have often been two dispatchers present as new employees (part-time hires from Lake Orion) and reservists engage in training.

"Most of the time, we do have two dispatchers up there, but it's not 24 hours a day," Neymanowski said.

The Oxford chief noted that whenever a second dispatcher is needed to help handle situations such as severe weather, one is always available. "We always have a dispatcher on call to come in," he said.

No longer able to afford operating its own dispatch center after Orion Township pulled out as a customer and hired Oakland County to handle its fire and medical calls, Lake Orion signed a three-year contract with Oxford to provide these services. It closed its dispatch center earlier this year.

"It is never easy to lose the huge local service our 911 center provided, but I must say, with the quality of service and support from everyone on your staff, it has been an easy transfer," Narsh wrote to Oxford officials.

Neymanowski believes having Oxford take over Lake Orion's calls was "the right thing to do for both communities to keep that local flavor."

"I'm a local guy," he said. "I think local (dispatch) does give you that little extra service (and) knowledge. (Dispatchers) know the community. (The center's) open 24-7 . . . Does it justify the (cost)? I guess that's for people to decide."

The Oxford chief wished to "emphasize" to residents that "right now, (there are) no safety issues" that have arisen from adding Lake Orion as a dispatch customer.

"If there was, I would not allow it," Neymanowski said. "If my dispatchers were telling me, 'Hey chief, we're overburdened. Lake Orion is really causing us a lot of extra work,' I would address that, believe me."

The chief was referring to concerns expressed by Oxford Township officials who don't believe one dispatcher is enough to handle calls from three communities – Oxford Village and Township, and Lake Orion.

As a result, the township board last month decided to move forward with making the switch from the village to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office for dispatch services related to Oxford's fire and emergency medical calls.

Although Neymanowski believes the township's opinion in this matter is "wrong" and he stands behind the village's single-dispatcher system, he bears no ill will toward township officials.

"If they feel comfortable with Oakland County, I wish them all the best," he said. "That's just the way it is."

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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