By Amanda Ensinger
The Prairie Township Fire Department plans to moving forward with plans to outsourcing their dispatching services.
According to Prairie Township Fire Chief Chris Snyder, the department will be recommending Grove City take over their dispatching services.
“Right now, we have plans to present this proposal to the board,” Snyder said. “We are looking at a completed transition date of Dec. 1 of this year.”
However, the transition may start sooner as the fire department plans to start using the Grove City dispatching services if they have a vacancy.
According to Snyder, the recommendation to go with Grove City will result in the laying off of several township employees. Currently, the fire department has three full-time dispatchers and six part-time dispatchers.
“This is going to create job elimination after the full transition is complete,” Snyder said. “However, we tried to make the transition in a manner that gives them ample time to find new employment.”
Assistant Fire Chief Allen Scott added that several of the full-time staff also could retire by Dec. 1 transition date.
The fire department plans to pay Grove City $211,000 a year for dispatching services. It costs the township $331,000 a year to provide its own dispatching serves.
Snyder said contracting out dispatching services is not about saving money, but about protecting firefighters, EMS and township residents.
“Overall, this project has been pursued from the beginning as a safety and operational point,” Snyder said. “Economically, we can’t accomplish our goal of being where we need to be.”
When the fire department originally presented the idea to the board, they said the reason they needed to outsource the services was to provide safer and more efficient service to residents and first responders.
“The township will pursue outsourcing because the need for extensive equipment and technology upgrades, as well as staffing level shortfalls,” Scott said. “The radios and other electronic equipment hardware and software used by the current, in-house operations, is out-of-date, making it less effective than what is used by other departments.”
Scott said that Franklin County and the state are moving toward 911 systems that can hone in on calls and texts from wireless devices.
“Only certain communication centers are designed to be wireless centers and Prairie Township is far from having the capacity to be on this list,” Scott said.
Scott also said that the department lacks the staff to meet the dispatching needs of the township.
“Guidelines state that there should be more than one communications tech, or dispatch, in the facility at all times,” he said. “With the township’s small scale operations, this is neither affordable nor physically possible.”
Besides brining the township up to date in dispatching, it would save money long term.
“It will end up being a savings,” Snyder said. “By 2018, the township should start to realize that savings.”
However, Snyder added before there is savings there will be some up-front costs, including the creation of an administrative assistant position to oversee all of this.
Snyder and Scott said they are excited about moving the township into the 21st century.
“We are the last dispatch in Franklin County to make this move,” Snyder said. “Our firefighters on the street need an updated system to support them and this will do that.”