PRESS EDITORIAL: All Ozaukee communities should use county dispatch

Turf control is taken seriously around here.

We’re not referring to getting weeds under control in fast-greening spring lawns. This is about local government agencies guarding their areas of responsibility and their natural reluctance to cede any of this turf to other entities.

Turf control has no doubt been a factor in the reluctance of the Village of Saukville and the City of Port Washington, municipalities existing so close to each other that many drivers on the Highway 33 connection don’t know when they’re in one community or the other, to seriously explore the efficiencies of sharing services such as fire protection or lake water use.

Turf control issues were on vivid display in the Village of Grafton last month in the controversy that accompanied the Village Board’s decision to move the village’s emergency call handling to the Ozaukee County dispatch center.

Opposition to the move came from residents who worried that the quality of emergency response would decline and from village employees involved in the Grafton dispatch operation, including some in the village police department.

This is understandable, and it should be considered a good sign that people who provide a community service care enough about their work to fight to keep it under village control. Yet emergency dispatch is turf that clearly belongs in the care of the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office, whose dispatch center has the resources to provide this critical service more effectively than the county’s villages and cities.

In Grafton’s case, the need for county help with dispatch service was so obvious it would have been irresponsible of the board to fail to take advantage of it. Grafton faced losing access to Emergency Medical Dispatch, an essential program that helps dispatchers facilitate the appropriate medical response to emergencies. The county dispatch center is expected to be fully compliant with the EMD program and Grafton will have that service.

The village’s connection with EMD collapsed when the Aurora Foundation, which had contributed more than $37,000 to help Grafton set up the service and provided the required medical director at no cost, withdrew from the arrangement after the village emergency response system failed to earn EMD accreditation.  

The trustees in the Village Board majority that voted to transfer emergency response dispatching to the county deserve credit for not only acting to give Grafton residents access to better first-response medical service, but also for saving village taxpayers money.

All county taxpayers share in the support of the Sheriff’s Office, so it stands to reason that there is a financial advantage to eliminating the local expense and passing the cost of dispatch services on to the county. Taxpayers of the City of Port Washington have been enjoying that benefit for a decade; the Sheriff’s Department has handled all dispatch for the city in a relationship that has worked well since 2008.

In an ideal world, dispatch for every city, village and town in the county would be handled by the dispatch center at the Ozaukee County Justice Center. County residents moved a bit closer to that world last week when the County Board voted to spend $250,000 to expand Sheriff’s Office dispatching services. 

As a first step, before the end of the year the county will take over all of Grafton’s dispatching, not just the 911 call service the village transferred in April. Other municipalities should follow.

The Sheriff’s Office already receives all 911 calls made from cell phones in the county. Overall, it handles 70,000 calls a year, a number expected to increase by 25% as a result of the County Board’s decision to fund increasing the dispatching staff from 15 to 18 employees.

All communities in the county, except Mequon and Cedarburg, are now relying on the county dispatch service. As the Sheriff’s Department dispatch center grows, those cities would be smart to cede their dispatching turf to the county too.     


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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.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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