Dispatch service now in county’s hands

Exit of staff members from Grafton Police Department speeds up planned takeover by Ozaukee Sheriff’s Office
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

The Village of Grafton is no longer providing emergency dispatching services. Instead, dispatching has been handled by the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office since 8 a.m. Monday, Nov. 26.

The change was originally to occur Tuesday, Dec. 11, but because several staff members left the Grafton Police Department, the transfer was expedited.

“Because of the shortfall we’re experiencing at the police department, we wanted to ensure there was an appropriate level of dispatching coverage not only for our officers but for the village as a whole,” Village Administrator Jesse Thyes said.

In April, the sheriff’s office took over the village’s fire and emergency medical calls, which was the first step of the transfer when the Village Board voted to implement a two-phase approach. At that time, police calls without fire or EMS were sent to the police department for dispatch.

As of Monday, the sheriff’s office began handling all 911, police, fire and EMS calls for the village.

The village decided to consolidate dispatching services with the sheriff’s office after it ran into difficulties with its Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) program, which provided dispatchers with a series of questions to determine the appropriate level of response in an emergency. Aurora Health Care, which provided medical oversight for the program, asked the village to enter a termination agreement in February.

In order to maintain its commitment to EMD, the village partnered with the sheriff’s office, which also uses EMD with Aurora’s oversight.

The Ozaukee County Board approved the transfer of dispatching services and hired three additional dispatchers — for a total of 18 — to accommodate the village’s calls.

Since the initial transfer, the county’s dispatch center has seen an expected uptick in its call volume, but Sheriff Jim Johnson said he doesn’t expect a major increase because the county was already receiving wireless 911 calls and transferring them to the village’s dispatch.

“We want to make sure we provide uninterrupted services for the Village of Grafton,” Johnson said. “If something changes with the call volume, we will take another look at it.”

Johnson offered Grafton’s dispatchers the opportunity to apply for the jobs in an expedited process, saying they would require less training than many applicants, but none of them applied.

In the meantime, the village approved creating police support specialist positions to handle clerical duties and retain its former dispatchers. Three of the specialists have left the police department or are on medical leave, so the department has two specialists.  

“We are actively advertising to fill the police support specialist job positions,” Thyes said, noting he has received applications for the roles.  

One of the duties for the police specialists was to staff the police department lobby around the clock, something the village board voted to maintain.

“We’re going to do the best that we can to cover as much time as we possibly can, but there is a distinct possibility that lobby closures will be experienced,” Thyes said.

In anticipation of lobby closures, the village has installed a telephone handset in the police department’s lobby that calls directly to the sheriff’s office if a visitor seeks emergency services.

Thyes said the village is in the process of installing a push button-lock system that would create a safe room in the lobby.     

“We continue taking proactive measures to maintain that safe haven even if someone is not available at the front counter of the police department,” Thyes said. 

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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