Council OKs 911 Center Transfer

A unanimous City Council agreed Tuesday that managing the Wheeling-Ohio County 911 Communications Center should be county officials’ responsibility.

It’s now up to county commissioners to make the next move.

Council’s vote authorizes City Manager Robert Herron to strike a deal with Ohio County commissioners to take over the facility, a move city officials expect will save about $180,000 per year. The center and its 19 employees dispatch for every law enforcement agency, fire department and ambulance service in the county.

County commissioners’ next meeting is Dec. 2, but it’s unclear whether a proposal to accept the 911 center will be on the agenda.

Neither side is saying much about the ongoing negotiations. Commission President Tim McCormick said last week there are issues “to be ironed out,” but wouldn’t go into further detail. Herron also would not comment Tuesday on any lingering issues.

“We’re still working things out to make sure the employee transition is smooth,” he said.

There was talk of a similar transfer about five years ago, but nothing came of it as the governments ultimately failed to reach an agreement.

Both Herron and County Administrator Greg Stewart have said they believe an agreement can be reached in time for a Jan. 1 transfer of operations. Stewart said that date would be convenient for employees switching health plans, but the move could take place any time.

A significant delay might force City Council to re-shuffle its budget, which only anticipates spending $300,000 on the 911 center – the result of an August budget revision passed under the assumption the transfer would take place at the first of the year. The cost to operate the center for the entire fiscal year during 2012-13 was about $680,000.

Despite collecting $1.1 million in 911 fees charged on Ohio County residents’ monthly phone bills, commissioners only contributed $500,000 to reimburse city coffers, leaving Wheeling to subsidize the remaining $180,000 through the general fund.

The remaining funds were spent on equipment, McCormick said previously.