CIRCLEVILLE — The City of Circleville will continue to operate its own, separate primary-safety answering point (PSAP) following a decision made by Circleville City Council members.
Circleville City Council, meeting in committee as a whole, decided unanimously Tuesday to “respectfully decline” the county’s proposal for the City to contract with them, closing the City’s PSAP and dispatching center and contracting with the county. With the decision Tuesday, the City will have its PSAP remain independent from the county operation.
Barry Keller, council member, said when it came down to it, the passage of the safety forces levy in November was the deciding factor, and that it was a nice gesture by the county to make the offer in an effort to help the City.
“The true variable is the levy because the citizens voted for the new revenue specifically for safety forces,” Keller said. “What that means is that if we decline the proposal it’ll be up to the administration, the fire chief, police chief, safety director and the mayor to manage that money. There has to be a very cautious care for the dollars coming in, in how they are used and distributed plain and simple.”
Council member Katie Logan Hedges, posting to her social media after the meeting, called this decision difficult.
“It has been, without a doubt, one of the hardest, most in-depth topics I’ve been a part of during my time on council,” Hedges said. “I am truly honored and humbled to be a part of this group of people — while we may not always agree, we do, and most definitely did here, following paths and at times, rabbit holes to discover the information we thought necessary.”
“While I do not feel like contracting with the county was the right decision for us now, I am hopeful at the proposed collaboration and partnership suggested by the Commissioners and I hope this attitude continues,” Hedges wrote in her social media post.
Tom Klitzka, council member, said council received a lot of information but he just didn’t see the contract being a good fit for the City after the five-year term.
“What happens when the price of the service raises and we’re out looking for new software and radios and controllers and so on,” he commented. “The way things are today we were giving away the farm and the City doesn’t want us to give away the PSAP. They told us they’ll give us the money and do what we need to do to make them safe.”
Klitzka noted that City residents had spoken with the levy vote.
“They gave us a plus and a thumbs up and now it’s time for us to move forward,” Klitzka added.
After the meeting, the City administration was happy about council’s decision.
Tony Chamberlain, City Safety and Human Resources Director, said he was appreciative of City Council taking their time on the matter and not rushing through which was a concern of the administration ahead of the first meeting to discuss the proposal two weeks ago.
“It’s a very complex issue and we heard a lot of different people on this issue,” Chamberlain commented. “There are people who are trying to dive in and get as much information as possible and I’m very thankful they dove in head first with the fact finding committee and the remainder of council doing their own research and asking more questions. I’m thankful they did their due diligence and they’re confident in their decision.”
According to Chamberlain, the City’s employees now feel relief that their jobs aren’t hanging in the balance and the city can move forward.
“It gives them a sense of relief and satisfaction that they are appreciated,” Chamberlain added. “Even though that might not have been what anyone thought — it’s easy to feel that way when the position you’re in is questioned for seven years. They feel secure and that’s really important.”
Shawn Baer, Circleville Police Chief, is happy about the decision and noted that they have “good people doing good things” in the dispatching unit.
“I’m not surprised by this, I had a lot of faith in City Council,” Baer said. “They talked to us quite a bit and I think it was a good decision and we’re happy about that.”
Fire Chief Brian Thompson also expressed his happiness with the decision to stay as is.
“I’ve been an advocate as the police chief and safety director has been about the employees and we beat feet in the streets to keep people employed in the City of Circleville and maintain the good faith with the people of the city who requested firefighters, officers and dispatchers,” Thompson stated. “Since our names and faces were tied to that push we wanted to make sure these people kept their jobs. We put our reputations on the line to tell people what these funds would be spent for and at the end of the day I can say now I told them the right information. Unfortunately if we have to go for a renewal in four-and-a-half years we can honestly tell people that we did the best we could but we still need more time.”
The Committee met for approximately an hour asking a few dozen questions of county leadership including Pickaway County Sheriff Robert Radcliff, EMA Director Darrin Flick and Pickaway County Commissioner Jay Wippel.
Wippel shared, ultimately people just want to call 911 and have someone to show up and help.
“That’s what the public wants, they don’t care about the politics, they want someone to come help them,” Wippel explained. “I think at the end of the day that’s what I want and I think what everyone wants. Any decision that’s made let’s put our resources toward that decision and provide that service.”
The committee also heard from a couple of residents of the City as well as one if its own firefighters, Derek Smith, who had questions to bring to the table.
After no further public comment or questions, Hedges motioned to decline the offer, which was seconded by Kltizka. No other actions on discussion took place during the meeting.