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Ferndale to handle 911 calls for Royal Oak Township

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published February 26, 2014

 A Ferndale police officer works in the 911 dispatch call center in the temporary police station in the basement of City Hall in Ferndale. City Council approved for the Ferndale Police Department to start serving as the public safety answering point for Royal Oak Township.

A Ferndale police officer works in the 911 dispatch call center in the temporary police station in the basement of City Hall in Ferndale. City Council approved for the Ferndale Police Department to start serving as the public safety answering point for Royal Oak Township.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

FERNDALE — The Ferndale City Council unanimously approved Feb. 10 to have the Ferndale Police Department serve as the public safety answering point for the 911 dispatch calls that come in from Royal Oak Township, taking over for Oakland County.

Royal Oak Township was declared to be in a state of “financial emergency” at the end of January by the Michigan Treasury Department. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department had provided police services to Royal Oak Township through last November, but the contract was terminated after Royal Oak Township failed to pay an outstanding bill.

Ferndale Police Chief Timothy Collins told council members that taking over the 911 calls would be beneficial, as Ferndale provides fire services to Royal Oak Township and the new arrangement would take one step out of the process — having Oakland County transfer the dispatch calls.

“We have been in communication with Oakland County and the Michigan State Police, and we volunteered to become the department to take the 911 calls,” Collins said. “We will be the receptor of all 911 calls for Royal Oak Township, and that is because we are providing fire services to Royal Oak Township and we can now directly dispatch much more efficiently than taking three calls. We will also take the responsibility of forwarding police and ambulance calls, as requested.”

Oakland County was providing the service of being the public safety answering point for all Royal Oak Township 911 calls free of charge, and Ferndale will do the same. Collins said he does not feel the extra calls will require more staff or extended hours.

“We did a yearly number estimate of about 2,400 calls in a year from Royal Oak Township, and most of those calls are for medical and fire services,” Collins said. “There is no downside financially for us. Our personnel we have will handle the call load, and to be able to have efficiency at the fire level will far outweigh the complaints. We may overall save lives in the long run.”

When the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department terminated the contract with Royal Oak Township, the Michigan State Police tentatively took over patrol services in the area. All 911 dispatch calls were then either transferred to the state police, Community Emergency Medical Service for an ambulance request, or Ferndale for fire services.

In the past, Collins said Ferndale designated towers that are in north Detroit, south Royal Oak, west Hazel Park and east Oak Park to route 911 calls to Ferndale so the Police Department would make sure it received all the 911 calls to which it would respond. Because of that, Collins said the personnel are familiar with rerouting calls when need be.

“We stepped up to the plate for what is best for the citizens of Royal Oak Township,” he said. “We know how many calls that will be, and we can do that without adding personnel or undue stress to our own system. Royal Oak Township has already made the request for us to take over as their (public safety answering point).”

Royal Oak Township Supervisor Donna Squalls said having Ferndale take over the 911 dispatch calls could only be a good thing for the small community.

“It will not affect us in a negative way, and it benefits us since Ferndale has been providing fire services for the last several years, so it only seems right for them to take over the 911 calls,” Squalls said. “I think it is great and saves time.”

Ferndale and Royal Oak Township extended the fire services contract between the two cities in November, with Royal Oak Township agreeing to pay Ferndale $265,301.88 for one year.

City Manager April Lynch said at the time that a one-year contract gave Ferndale an opportunity to back out if Royal Oak Township could not pay.

Mayor Dave Coulter said Feb. 10 that he is pleased to be able to help Royal Oak Township as its public safety answering point, but he does not want any financial burden to fall on Ferndale.

“I think, given the financial condition of Royal Oak Township and the fact that they are our neighbors, we want to do this and we value them as neighbors,” Coulter said. “But our response is not to financially support their services. There should be no additional cost to Ferndale to do this.”

Council member Melanie Piana agreed with Coulter and said the end goal is not for Ferndale to become the public safety provider for Royal Oak Township.

“I am more worried about the long-term health of public safety, and while I appreciate Ferndale stepping in and providing a helping hand to our neighbor, the problem they are experiencing is a state-created problem and they need to help us solve it,” she said. “The state police providing services is not a long-term solution, but who is left? There are not a lot of choices.”