The Dukes County Sheriff’s Department took a “major step forward” in garnering support for maintaining an improved E911 communications system built up over five years, according to Sheriff Robert Ogden.
The state now controls all county sheriff departments, and has committed $1.5 million to the infrastructure plan. The state will add to that if it sees “buy-in” from the towns for a total of $237,313, which could increase by 2.5 percent each year.
In what has proven to be an uphill battle for the sheriff, some towns are hesitating and have raised questions about four different allocation formulas suggested by the sheriff’s department.
Ogden said each town will be affected differently by each individual formula — some will benefit, and some will be negatively affected. Edgartown selectmen recently supported a cost-sharing formula based entirely on call volume, while Tisbury supported holding a spot for a warrant article, but made no commitment on a funding method.
But the most recent success for the department was on Wednesday, when West Tisbury selectmen voted to support a cost-sharing approach that would base costs off a 50 percent share, 50 percent call volume formula.
West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand told The Times selectmen were in full support of that scenario, but didn’t think it was fair for every other town to pay two shares, while Aquinnah only had to pay for one share. “Selectmen wanted the 50 percent share to be split equally between each town,” Rand said.
Rand said that although West Tisbury would not be one of the towns to benefit from the 50/50 split, selectmen believed it would be the most equitable solution for the entire region.
Selectmen agreed to submit a warrant article for the town’s annual town meeting, so long as Aquinnah would be made to pay an equal two shares like the other towns.
Ogden said he hopes the Island towns can come together to realize the importance of this system. “Not everyone is going to win in this case, but it’s a small price to pay to make a successful system,” he said. “Big picture: We need to move forward. The ask is so small; it’s one-quarter of what we asked for last year.”
Ogden said the next big step for the sheriff’s office is to “nail down what each town is willing to go with.”