NORTH OLMSTED/FAIRVIEW PARK

Westshore police departments like North Olmsted, Fairview Park, Westlake and Bay Village are among the last in Cuyahoga County to still run their own dispatch services.

North Olmsted’s, in particular, would like to keep its dispatch autonomy rather than join another, larger location that covers multiple cities. For that reason, a recent move to add neighboring Fairview Park’s dispatch and prisoners to its existing facility at 27243 Lorain Road is seen as a worthwhile measure by NOPD Chief Bob Wagner.

“Everybody in Cuyahoga County is working on the regionalization of their dispatch services,” Wagner said. “Us over here on the Westshore are kind of the last in the county to regionalize, and the county is pushing and pushing and pushing for it. (The county) recently put some of these cities on notice that, if they don’t regionalize by 2025, they’re going to be responsible for their own 911 call centers without county funding.”

“We saw the writing on the wall on that a long time ago, and it’s finally coming to fruition,” he said. “I would much rather keep dispatch here in North Olmsted than farm that out. That’s the best thing for us. For Fairview, it works out for them because we have a good working relationship with them. We’re right next door.”

City councils in both communities still need to approve the two ordinances, but are expected to this week. The target start date is loosely set for July 1.

Fairview Park’s jail, a 12-day facility containing six cells, was built in 1967 and hasn’t aged gracefully, according to police Chief Paul Shepard. With department supervisors – lieutenants and sergeants – currently responsible for staffing the cell block and handling dispatch duty, it has left officers at the station instead of on the road and in the community, something Shepard would like to change.

Fairview is the last police department in the county to not have a dedicated dispatcher or corrections officer on staff.

“Just like how we don’t have dispatch staff, we don’t have corrections staff,” Shepard said in March. “So our police officers, when we have a prisoner, have to go to feed them, book them and do hourly checks. For every 24 hours we have someone in our custody, eight man hours are used for prisoner care. That means for every one person that spends 24 hours in custody, a police officer is off the road for eight hours.”

Wagner, whose 12-day facility contains nine cells, hopes to facilitate the change. He said that North Olmsted currently averages about two prisoners per day. Fairview averages slightly less than that.

In a given year, Shepard said that his department arrests between 500 and 700 people per year, with around 200 spending at least one day in jail. Those 200 individuals would be transported to North Olmsted once the new system goes into effect.

For both cities, dispatch is an important factor. When the NOPD building was remodeled in 2015, the project included an expansion of dispatch consoles from one to three. In the years since, the department has looked into adding another city. Before opting to join the larger Southwest Emergency Dispatch Center, which is based in Strongsville and serves North Royalton, Brook Park, Berea and Olmsted Township, Olmsted Falls was considering North Olmsted. Now, Fairview could help occupy that space and keep the hosts’ own dispatch services in house for the long term.

“We already have full-time dispatchers who do police dispatching for us,” Wagner said. “There’s a profit margin built in for the city of North Olmsted as well, and, sure, that’s a part of it. But also, it’s about looking to the future and making sure we retain dispatch services in North Olmsted instead of sending it out to a different regional dispatch.”

There will be some costs involved with bringing on Fairview’s call and prisoner volume. Wagner said he will look into hiring a part-time corrections officer, as well as a full-time and part-time dispatcher.

Two corrections officers – one full-time and one part-time – are currently on staff. The position pays a starting wage of around $15 per hour. Dispatchers are paid $19.30 per hour to start.

Fairview will still be responsible, physically and financially, for its prisoners, including transportation and a budgeted cost of $65 per day for each person staying at the jail. The NOPD building has a direct video conferencing feed that links to Rocky River Municipal Court, which both cities use. They both already use the same radio frequency.

“It’s built into our projected costs, but we need to add a radio,” Wagner said. “Our radios are built into our computers, but we have to have a physical radio in our radio room to have that channel put into our computers. We have a software upgrade we have to do for multi-jurisdictional dispatching. We’ve got to get radios so we can hear Fairview’s car-to-car radio talk. So there’s some things like that that we have to do because we have to get things installed and that takes time.”

Per the two ordinances, Fairview will pay North Olmsted $225,000 per year over a three-year period in monthly installments.

Contact this reporter at cvoloschuk@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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