Westland moves closer to joining Dearborn United Dispatch Center

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The Westland City Council unanimously approved a resolution to join the Dearborn United Dispatch Center, as long as the three current cities Westland provides dispatch services for also agree to contracts with Dearborn.

Westland council meeting documents from Feb. 19 state that Dearborn approved the dispatch contract with Westland and has provided Wayne, Garden City and Inkster with proposed contracts in order to come to an agreement with each city separately.

“The attached resolution also conditionally approves the contract between Westland and Dearborn, with such approval only effective if the cities of Wayne, Garden City, and Inkster also contract to have Dearborn provide their dispatch services,” the Westland city council agenda read.

In 2013, Westland, Wayne, Garden City and Inkster enter into an Interlocal Agreement to have Westland provide emergency dispatch services for all four communities, according to the resolution.

The resolution also says that all four cities agree to Dearborn’s proposal to provide services, it is anticipated that the four cities will jointly save approximately $400,000 annually and avoid the $200,000 upgrade costs they face for advancing technologies and equipment.

Westland will also be responsible for all wrap up costs, building restoration and equipment disposal at the current Westland dispatch facility if the four-city agreement happens.

If the Dearborn contracts are approved by Wayne, Garden City and Inkster, the Interlocal Agreement will be terminated and a new five-year agreement with Dearborn will begin on July 1.

During the Westland council meeting, a Westland dispatch employee told the council to consider 18 crucial factors — the 18 women who are asked to work overtime hours, work short-staffed 12-hour shifts without enough breaks, holidays and weekends before voting on the dispatch contract.

“These 18 women, several are single parents,” the employee said. “They provide healthcare coverage for families, one has a child on the autism scale, one is currently battling cancer. What will happen to them when they no longer have a job or healthcare? Do they go on state aid? Do they attempt to pay for COBRA through the city which could cost them hundreds of dollars a month.”

The dispatch employee also added that some workers might have to relocate from the area which already has a steady decline in population, that there will be no cost savings if Westland contracts out in the first year, consider the cost to pay the 18 dispatchers for the unused paid time off, and the city to cover unemployment benefits for the employees who don’t find jobs and the city paying increases to the state in tax rates to cover the unemployment insurance.

Westland Councilwoman Tasha Green asked if the Westland mayor or police chief should explain why the city is recommending the change to the city of Dearborn out of respect for the dispatch employee who spoke.

During the council meeting, Westland Police Chief Jeff Jedrusik said that throughout the country many cities and counties have recognized the service advantages and cost savings associated with consolidated dispatch centers.

“For the past several years I have been researching options on how to improve our dispatch center by growing for not only the city of Westland, but for also our current dispatch partners of Inkster, Wayne and Garden City,” he said. “I feel we found that opportunity now with the city of Dearborn.”

He added that in 2013, Dearborn was awarded a $3.2 million grant to build a state-of-the-art dispatch center with the idea of growing into a Western Wayne County Regional Dispatch Center. In 2016 Dearborn hired a consultant to assist with the design and development of the building and also streamline a dispatch process that would work best.

“There is cost savings that goes along with this, but this is much more than cost savings,” Jedrusik said. “This is about improving public service to our communities and police to our police and firefighters.

“Crime has no border, we’ve seen that with our current dispatch center we have with Inkster, Wayne and Garden City. Our criminals are crossing borders and moving along when you have police chases that go from one city to another we realize that consolidating together streamlines communication and information sharing.”

Jedrusik said the fire departments have been working under mutual aid agreements and in a case of a catastrophic regional incident, whether it is natural or man made, a dispatch consortium would be the single point of coordination that would enhance our resources, deployment of equipment, police and firefighters in an efficient manner.

“Most importantly, this gives us the ability to increase on a daily basis the number of dispatchers we have in the seats for our communities,” Jedrusik said. “It goes to what we were saying right here, we have fantastic dispatchers but they are overworked and we are short so here’s the ability to for us to improve that to put more dispatchers in the seats for our police, fire and residents.”

Currently, the Westland Dispatch Center has 18 dispatchers and the model with Dearborn would have 40 dispatchers with a supervisor and director to oversee the program. Jedrusik said there will be dedicated police dispatchers, fire dispatchers backup dispatchers and lien operators to increase efficiency.

“In regards to our employees, Dearborn wants to hire our dispatchers,” Jedrusik said. “They recognize that the ability to bring over our dispatchers is going to improve this program completely. They created a plan that they’re going to create a separate eligibility list for our dispatchers and hire them with preference over anybody that they already currently have on a list.

“They’ve also put some things into play that would allow a lateral transfer, so what our current dispatchers are making here, the ones that go over would be fit in their pay scale at the same or greater pay that they’re already making right now.”

Jedrusik said that during the first year Westland would not have some cost savings because it is working with the union to take care of their dispatchers and that the three dispatchers close to retirement will be maintained so they can get to their retirement dates.

The Dearborn City Council unanimously approved the intergovernmental agreement to add Westland to the Dearborn United Dispatch Center Jan. 29.

Council President Susan Dabaja explained that the financial model being proposed is based on a share of the total estimated cost of the united dispatch center allocated to each municipality based on the number of 911 calls that they have for 2017.

During the Jan. 29 meeting, Councilwoman Leslie Herrick said that an important part of the dispatch center process was the $3.6 million in grant funding the city received toward upgrades and that the center has room to expand if needed.

Before the council meeting, the council members and administration had discussions about adding Westland to the dispatch center on Jan. 22 and Nov. 15. Westland held a study session to discuss the public safety dispatch contract on Feb. 11.

During the Nov. 15 study session at the Dearborn Administrative Center, the City Council opted to look further into the possible expansion, asking the administration for more information and numbers before taking the next step.

Jedrusik presented on the behalf of Westland during the study session where Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said adding more cities would make the dispatch services more cost efficient and more efficient with response to calls.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)

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