911 system still ‘premier’ despite loss of revenueWritten by Emily Tucker | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lucas County Emergency Services expects a drop in revenue of more than $600,000 because of the decrease in county property values.
The 911 levy, which expires Dec. 31, is up for renewal at .7 mills for five more years. Dennis Cole, director of Lucas County Emergency Services, said the current levy raises about
$6 million per year. If the levy renewal passes, it should raise more than
$5 million per year.
“There’s always a concern in these economic times, and everyone is looking to minimize expense at their own costs,” Cole said. “That’s why we try to be good stewards of the money. We try to give the best service. “
No significant changes have been made to the levy; it is a renewal to continue funding operation costs. The levy pays to keep the equipment operating, purchase new equipment when necessary and support any improvements to the system. Cole said the levy is typically well supported.
“It gets public safety services to people who need them as soon as possible,” Cole said. “Any changes are to help us reduce the cost of providing some of those public safety services.”
Cole said there’s no standard in Ohio of how 911 is funded, but at least four other counties in the state fund emergency services with a similar levy.
In 1995, public safety officials and voters decentralized the call-taking method. Cole said there are now seven call points that answer emergency phone calls. For example, emergency services in Toledo respond to a Toledo call, and emergency services in Maumee respond to a Maumee call.
Mike Koontz, director of countywide communications at the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office, said all the EMS departments are on the same system so they can talk to each other.
“It’s the premier system in the state,” he said. “There are about 3,600 radios on the system now. It used to be that each fire, police department, etc., had separate radio systems. Money was spent all over the place on systems where people couldn’t talk to each other. We have a far better system than anybody could have now.”
The levy pays to keep the system operating. Koontz said some of this money, plus grants, goes toward purchasing radios and keeping the system up-to-date. Each jurisdiction maintains its radios, and there are 216 base radios in the whole system.
Koontz said one of the major concerns in the past was making sure public safety workers could talk to each other when necessary. Now, the system has proved to be very efficient.
“We are light-years ahead of where we were five years ago,” he said. “We have not lost one second of airtime.”
Koontz said there were two tornadoes last summer that passed by two of the radio towers, and emergency services were still able to communicate.
Lucas County Emergency Services uses the Project 25 (P25) radio system, which has become the standard for radio systems. Koontz said there are other emergency services departments that use the P25 system in Ohio, but Lucas County is the only county in Northwest Ohio that does.