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Posted: 05/28/14

Wash Twp loses dispatch agreement with Oakland

Observer Special Writer
      Washington Township's plans to move its fire and emergency dispatch services to Oakland County have been scuttled.
       At the May 21 board meeting, Supervisor Dan O'Leary informed the Board of Trustees that Oakland County contacted this past week to say they are unable to engage in a one-year contract with the township to handle its 911 dispatch calls.
       O'Leary blames the derailment on Macomb County and, specifically, County Executive Mark Hackel.
       O'Leary, with the support of the board and Fire Chief Brian Tyrell, had been in negotiations to have Oakland County be the dispatch center for police, fire and EMS calls within the township.
       Under such an arrangement, 911 calls originating from the township that go to Macomb County would have been routed to Washington Township via Oakland County and would have involved a three-way call between Macomb, Oakland and Washington.
       Current township-based 911 calls go through the Macomb County Sheriff's dispatch system and are then routed to the Washington Township Fire Department (WTFD). A full-time WTFD staffer takes the information from Macomb dispatch, then manages the equipment and personnel attending to the emergency.
       Under the new arrangement, Oakland County would take on the middleman role of receiving the call and managing the situation. Such an arrangement would allow WTFD to remove a person from dispatch and put them in the field.
       The township's rationale for switching to Oakland County was that Macomb's new multimillion dollar COMTEC center was not yet ready, nor experienced enough. Oakland County has the experience, bandwidth and expertise, the board has determined.
       Technical logistics of managing the three-way call were discussed at a May 9 meeting involving representatives from Macomb, Oakland and Washington.
       "I felt we could have made some headway," O'Leary said. "We could have worked it out."
       But last week, after hearing from Macomb County officials, Oakland County called the township and said they were reluctant to move forward.
       Since news broke in April of Washington's intention to move dispatch to Oakland County, O'Leary and Hackel have engaged in a back-and-forth media battle, one that pits the county's leading political figure against the supervisor of one of its wealthiest townships.
       The May 21 board meeting was O'Leary's chance to return volley.
       "Thanks to Mr. Hackel's politics and ego, we have lost an opportunity," O'Leary said. "It's an affront to our residents."
       Hackel said he contested the township's actions not for personal or politicial reasons, but for the risk of losing a 911 call during the three-way process. He said Macomb's legal counsel believes this would also create liability issues.
       "I'm not here to argue, I'm not here to fight, what I'm saying is we're not transferring that 911 call," Hackel said on May 23.
       Tyrell supported the supervisor, saying that, as fire chief, he was fully in support of moving dispatch operations to Oakland County.
       With the move to Oakland on hold ­ and an icy relationship with Macomb County, for the time being ­ O'Leary and Tyrell say there are other options.
       "It's not done yet. I am exploring several other options that I will present to you for consideration," O'Leary told the board.
       One such option is the Southeast Regional Emergency Service Authority, or SERESA, a municipal consolidated dispatch involving Eastpointe, Roseville and St. Clair Shores.
       The other option O'Leary acknowledged is staying with Macomb County<frosty relationship aside. The supervisor acknowledges that the safety of township residents is the highest priority.
       Observer Staff Writer Chris Gray contributed to this story.

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