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All in the details? Township, village officials hear different terms on dispatch contract

The tower at the Village Dispatch Center soars high above the downtown area. Laura Colvin. (click for larger version)
December 15, 2010 - Is it two years or three?

All depends on who was talking as two local governing boards separately discussed renewal of Orion Township's fire dispatch contract at respective meetings in recent weeks.

Currently, Orion Township contracts with the Village of Lake Orion for fire and emergency medical dispatch service.

The agreement, supported by the township fire milage, was last renewed in December 2009 for one year at a cost of $102,000.

"We've questioned whether that amount can be reduced in light of budgetary concerns," said Supervisor Matthew Gibb at a Dec. 6 regular meeting of the Orion Township Board of Trustees.

Discussions with village officials, Gibb told his board during what he called a "verbal update" of dispatch discussions, included his suggestion to the village: Put a $90,000 price tag on the service, freeze it, and the township will be more amenable to a two-year contract.

Trustee Neal Porter questioned whether Gibb requested information from the Oakland County Dispatch Center, where county officials estimate a contract cost of $38,000-$42,000 for the same service. Porter also asked about the possible advantage of a one-year contract with the village.

"I have pulled county information," said Gibb without elaborating. "At any time we could request a proposal from the county. We haven't reached that point."

He also reiterated a long-held argument for staying with the local dispatch service with the best interests of the community in mind.

A two-year contract, he continued, gives the board time to work through issues looming in the not-too distant future.

"Two years does a couple of things for us," said Gibb. "One, it takes the question off the table so we can focus on other issues. We're going to ask the public to renew a fire milage and potentially a Headlee override soon."

Overriding previous Headlee Amendment rollbacks essentially allows the township to maintain or increase a given millage rate - and thus collect more taxes - regardless of the 1978 Headlee Amendment that mandates a milage roll back if tax revenues rise faster than the rate of inflation.

Discussions with the village, Gibb said, eventually led to a compromise on costs: A ten percent reduction from the current rate, resulting in a $91,800 price tag, frozen at that rate for two years.

Trustee JoAnn Van Tassel made the official motion.

"I move to authorize the supervisor to contact on behalf of the township with the village of Lake Orion for fire dispatch services at an amount not to exceed $91,800 annually for calendar years 2011 and calendar year 2012."

The motion was supported by Treasurer Alice Young and approved by a 6-0 vote. Trustee John Steimel was absent.

A meeting synopsis published Dec. 8 concurrs: "Authorized Supervisor to sign a two-year contract in the amount of $91,800 per year with the Village of Lake Orion for fire dispatch services."

But details presented by Village Manager Paul Zelenak at a Dec. 13 meeting of the Lake Orion Village Council were somewhat different.

"The village and township have had several discussions and negotiated a new three year contract beginning Jan. 1, 2011 and ending Dec. 31, 2013," he said. "We've agreed to a new three year contract at a cost of $91,800 per year. Our recommendation (to council) is to approve the contract as presented and authorize the village manager to sign the agreement on behalf of the Village of Lake Orion."

Council members appeared pleased with the news, and offered praise to Zelenak, as well as Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh and Fire Chief Jeff Key, for a job well done.

"I think its great they got this worked out," said Village Councilman Mike Toth. "I know it's not an easy job to compete with what would be termed 'a big box store,' like Oakland County, but I think the township made the right decision going with us and I'm looking forward to the chief providing good service."

Council President Ken Vanportfliet agreed.

"Our service is for the people, by the people and of the people," he said. "I stopped down (at the Lake Orion Dispatch Center) this weekend and it was busy. Things were being handled well."

The contract was set for a return to the Orion Township board Dec. 20, but it wasn't clear whether the document would arrive in the form of a two, or three year agreement.

All meetings of the Orion Township Board and the Lake Orion Village Council are video recorded by Orion Neighborhood Television (ONTV) and can be viewed at

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