MORRIS – After a year of debate, the Grundy County Board has decided to contribute $1.06 million a year to pay for emergency telephone dispatching services for the county.
The county will be saving $90,000 annually since it currently pays $1.15 million for dispatching services.
The Grundy County Board approved to spend $1.06 million in a 12-4 vote during Tuesday night’s County Board meeting.
Board members Ann Gill, Harold Vota, Jim Ryan and Doug Boresi voted against resolution, and members Frank Halpin and Ken Iverson were absent from the meeting.
Representatives from Coal City, Minooka and the Grundy County Emergency Telephone System Board presented to the board before the vote was made.
“This agreement has been a long time coming,” Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said. “I think tonight we had some good discussion, and I’m happy with the decision.”
About three years ago, Morris dispatch and Grundy County dispatch consolidated their services and a new 911 dispatch center was built south of Morris on Route 47. The new dispatch center provides services for 14 police departments and fire districts in the county.
Grundy County built and paid for the facility but shared the cost of dispatch operations with the city of Morris. The cost of operations includes salaries, benefits and employee training for the 16 full-time and two part-time dispatchers employed at the center.
When the center was built, Morris and Grundy County entered into a three-year intergovernmental agreement, taking on the bulk of the cost since both parties had previously paid for dispatch operations.
Many of the other agencies now using the consolidated service previously received dispatch service through the county for free and needed time to adjust their budgets for the new cost.
With the three-year agreement, Grundy paid $1.15 million and Morris almost $500,000. Minooka and Coal City also contributed.
When that agreement expires later this year and the new one goes into effect, the county will be locked into paying $1.06 million for the next three years, which amounts to 58.9 percent of the total cost of operations for the center.
During the past year, the 911 finance committee – a subcommittee of the Grundy County Emergency Telephone System Board – collected data and developed a comprehensive cost-sharing formula to better determine the cost burden for the 14 agencies in the county using dispatching services.
“We came up with the best formula, we thought, to make this center operate efficiently and effectively. This will work,” said Brent Dite, Morris Police Chief and chairman of the 911 board, during Tuesday’s meeting.
Now that the board has settled on a figure, the ETSB can determine the contributions for all of the remaining agencies involved.
Matt Fritz, village administrator for Coal City and member of the 911 finance committee, and Coal City Mayor Neal Nelson presented at Tuesday’s board meeting to ask the county to increase their contribution or consider different funding options.
Fritz and Nelson pressed the board to pay for all of the dispatching operations by slightly increasing property taxes for all county residents.
“Why don’t we look at Grundy County taking this over, being accountable and making this an efficient operation,” said Nelson during Tuesday’s meeting.
Another option they suggested was for the board to consider restructuring the agreement so that communities with no police departments pay the same rate for dispatching services as those that have departments.
“Now, the way things are rolling out of the committee, we’re going to be punished for having a police department,” Nelson said. “We have to pay more in dispatch fees than the other communities that don’t have a police department.”
Fritz, on behalf of the 911 finance committee, also asked the county to consider voting on a percentage instead of a fixed figure so that the county’s share would stay constant relative to yearly budget changes. He asked the board to contribute 60 percent of the funds which would increase their contribution by $20,000 to $1.08 million.
Severson argued that because the county incurs most of the costs associated with the actual building, the county is paying a fair amount.
“We’re paying the rent on the building,” Severson said. “The county also pays maintenance on the building ... that’s not a static number for us. We absorb that number no matter what.”