SYCAMORE – Small town police departments are concerned about the possibility that the cost of DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office dispatch services will rise.
Local municipality members and law enforcement officers met with the DeKalb County Board’s law and justice committee Monday to talk about the proposed cost increase. Waterman Police Chief Chuck Breese said some of the municipalities have looked at leaving the sheriff’s services for something more economical, such as getting services through another agency, although no official decisions have been made.
“I don’t want to leave DeKalb County,” Breese said. “They do a great job, the dispatch center does a great job. But we cannot afford it if it goes higher than what we have now.”
The increase in cost for many municipalities reflect the costs that Sycamore and Genoa believe are more than their fair share. Sycamore and Genoa staff their own dispatch centers within the sheriff’s office.
The cost per town using the county’s services depends on how much activity the county is required to do.
Each activity, a computer aided dispatch entry, costs so much per municipality for the service being provided by the county.
Currently, communities other than Sycamore and Genoa, including Cortland, Hinckley, Kingston, Kirkland, Malta, Somonauk and Waterman, piggyback off of the sheriff’s office, since many of the municipalities employ only a few police officers, Breese said.
Sycamore police Lt. Darrell Johnson said Sycamore and Genoa believed they were paying too much for their share, which started a deeper evaluation into how much each municipality was paying for dispatch services and would pay in the future.
“Cost is a major issue for everyone,” Johnson said. “We felt we paid more for our share. That’s the whole reason this whole concept was brought up in the first place. I can’t speak for Genoa, but we have a choice to stay with the county. Our point was, are we paying for our fair share? We sympathize with every agency here.”
Last year, the Waterman police department paid $16,719 for the dispatch services, while a proposal for this year states Waterman would owe $47,169. Breese said it would be too much for Waterman to afford. Sheriff Roger Scott said Waterman's share of the cost for this year is $18,638.
One possible option would be for the predicted costs to the smaller municipalities, as budgeted by the sheriff’s office along with County Administrator Gary Hanson, to be gradually increased over a seven-year plan. In 2020, Waterman would owe $63,211 for the dispatch services.
At the meeting Monday, no final decisions were made, but County Board Chairman Jeff Metzger said the law and justice committee would figure out how to mediate another meeting in the future, so the best possible decisions could be made by each agency.
Board member Anthony Cvek, R-Sycamore, said the county has always picked up the bulk of the cost for small towns, but the cost should be passed out according to usage by all municipalities.
“All this came to [the County Board] after the fact, after it was already out there, already out to the police chiefs,” Cvek said. “As an individual, granted, I represent the majority of Sycamore and Sycamore benefits from the plan. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to cast a blind eye to the other municipalities if they aren’t going to get a fair shake.”