Nelsonville City Council voted Tuesday to cancel their 911 dispatching contract with Athens County and authorized the city manager to negotiate a new contract with Hocking College.

This comes after the city concluded its six-month trial with Hocking College Police Department dispatching services, which has been handling emergency and non-emergency police dispatching for Nelsonville Police Department, The Athens Messenger previously reported.

City Council President Tony Dunfee noted the new service is not affecting 911 dispatching, but will offer 24-hour non-emergency services to residents.

“This is for normal dispatching services 24 hours a day for Nelsonville,” Dunfee said. “For 911 emergencies – you still call them, they will dispatch.”

Prior to the trial period with Hocking College, the county had administered dispatching services for Nelsonville since 2004 – when the city agreed to pay the county approximately $48,000 per year to handle emergency dispatching – but not non-emergency dispatching, City Council Vice President Greg Smith told to The Athens Messenger.

“The whole salt rub in the wound is that $50,000 did not include non-emergency dispatching,” Smith said.

The result was that Nelsonville residents would call to report a nuisance or seek a non-emergency dispatch, and would find themselves sent to a voicemail, Smith said.

“When someone calls the police they don’t want to listen for the answering machine and get a call back, they want service now,” Smith said.

The ordinance to negotiate a new contract allows City Manager Scott Frank to negotiate up to $70,000 toward the new contract, Dunfee said.

Smith said he anticipates the final amount to be close to that figure.

Smith said during the meeting he would like the city law director to review the contract before it is finalized because the original contract draft he had seen “was not the work of an attorney.” Dunfee said the contract would be reviewed by the law director.

Frank, Dunfee and Nelsonville Police Chief Scott Fitch did not return requests for comment by publication time.

The Nelsonville City Council also voted to increase sewer rates for residents in order to finance a new waste-treatment plant.

For in-town users, the rate is increasing from $15.50 to 16.54 for under 1,500 gallons used, and the rate will increase from $9.36 to $10.11 for every 1,000 gallons over the 1,500 gallon minimum.

Smith said during the meeting a payment is due on the project in either late 2022 or 2023.

For out-of-town users, the rate is increasing from $23.24 to $25.10 for under 1,500 gallons used, with the rate increasing from $14.05 to $15.17 for every 1,000 gallons above 1,500.

The city broke ground on the project in the spring, WOUB reported in July. The existing plant was completed in 1955 and is currently operating at capacity.

Smith said the city is “lagging behind” in sewage fees because major users like Hocking College aren’t creating the same quantity of waste as before because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The rate change will be effective Feb. 1, 2021.

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