Webster Township expresses concerns about county dispatch

By Lonnie Huhman,


A visit to a Webster Township Board meeting by Washtenaw County Administrator Gregory Dill saw different topics talked about, but one in particular has township officials concerned.

In an effort to get around to the different municipalities in the county, Gill paid a visit to Webster Township on May 21 to let it know the county wants to be better connected with them and others, and it wants to be of help and a resource. He cited some areas where they want to continue to help make better, including with broadband and roads.

He said the goal is to produce good government.

While addressing any questions or concerns, Gill was asked by Webster Township Trustee John Scharf about the county emergency dispatch, which helps serve Webster’s emergency/public safety services.

“I don’t feel satisfied with the way the dispatch is being operated,” Scharf said. “And I want to know what your opinion is and what you think can be done about it?”

Gill said dispatch is very important as an entry point and a foundation for public safety. He said when someone calls 911 they rightly have expectations that services will be provided in a fast and efficient manner.

However, for the county dispatch, he said they have been hearing concerns.

“We have fielded lately a lot of concerns consistent with what you just said, around quality of the service and the timeliness of the service,” Gill said. “I’ve had a number of discussions recently with Sheriff Clayton and others around that framework and how we might improve it moving forward. We understand we have work to do. I don’t have a specific answer this evening on how we can improve it, but I’m just saying, I just want to leave with all of you that we continue to work on it and continue to make it a priority.”

Scharf said he has a concern that those operating the dispatch are not accountable to the voters. Gill said he would pass that comment onto Clayton because the county needs to know the concerns of those it serves.

Later in the meeting, during discussion about the Dexter Area Fire Authority, Fire Chief Robert Smith was asked about dispatch. He said the way the county dispatch is set up goes against the trend other dispatches around the country are moving toward.

He said the modern trend is to have police/fire/EMS all in the same building with a 911 call going into one person and then that person sending it over to the correct dispatch within the same building. He said with the county a big issue is that it’s not working this way. He said timeliness of the fire department getting a call from dispatch to respond to a situation is a concern.

Another question asked of Gill came from township supervisor John Kingsley, who asked where the tax dollars from the recent county-wide public safety/mental health millage were going.

Gill said those tax dollars just became available and the county is now in the process of working on a plan and strategy on how they will be spent. He said they will go to what they are intended to help with.

According to the county website, Washtenaw County residents voted two-to-one in November 2017 in favor of an eight-year millage that would generate $5 to $6 million per year for mental health and public safety improvements beginning in January 2019.

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