West Tisbury backs sheriff


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.”




  1. Hard for me to understand the sheriffs position now. Is he a pawn of the State or just terrible at balancing a budget.
    We voters said no clearly last year at town meeting to a mind boggling request from Ogden last year. In fact, by his own mouth we would have foolishly committed to paying 4 times as much as we needed to, to only benefit the states budget. Maybe if we say no again it will go down to another quarter.
    Once we say yes to this, it’s a budgetary commitment for life. The WT selectman should know better.

  2. This is what I get out of this article. First, the state is giving $ 1.5 million towards this project and will give MORE money if they see ALL the towns pitch in money totaling $ 237,313. Well, the Sheriff does not tell us how much more money the state will give and he also doesn’t say if the $ 237,313 is a one time amount or a yearly one that ALL the towns will have to absorb and, on top of that, it’s going to be increased every year by 2.5 percent. The formula based on call volume won’t be fair either, because MOST of the calls are generated from towns that have more late night establishments and activities. I believe formulas could be made by each town, but the only FAIR way to distribute these formulas over time would be to rotate them yearly so every town, at the end of 6 years, would be paying the same amount. One needs to have ALL information that pertains to the subject matter in order to make a reasonable and accurate decision……TRANSPARENCY IS WHAT IS NEEDED HERE

  3. While the Sheriff may not be the best salesperson, and last year’s idea of having the towns fund payroll was terrible, he has been quite transparent. He has provided a 25+ page handout and spent as much time as necessary to answer questions. This current request is for ongoing maintenance of equipment that is shared by the entire island to provide reliable, efficient and effective communications. The state is providing the capital costs, thanks to the Sheriff’s successful lobbying. It is quite reasonable for the towns to fund ongoing maintenance costs and there is precedent around the Commonwealth for towns to do so. We have been at high risk for years and only due to luck and the dedication of our first-responders who’ve developed creative work-arounds when equipment fails have we not had a real disaster.

    However, offering the towns four options for payment is counter-productive. There needs to be a single plan offered and people persuaded that it’s fair and will work. In my opinion, for island-wide infrastructure used by all towns, costs should be shared equally among them – each town pays one sixth of the maintenance every year. The Sheriff’s “D” option comes close where half the cost is shared equally (assuming the Aquinnah “adjustment” goes away), and the other half is based on call volume. But I don’t believe it’s appropriate – calls come from anywhere for anyone at any time; and “call volume” only pertains to 911 calls, yet the system is used for far more than that as agencies communicate all the time, including on less critical issues.

    Transparency? – All the necessary information (and then some) was presented at the meeting. Unfortunately almost no one shows up, but is ready to complain without all the facts.

  4. Again, the key part of this is that the state owns the department. That means they own the funding and the responsibility to maintain a working system. Our local tax dollars are not intended for this – I don’t believe many counties have been suckerred into a similar plan.
    1.5 million is already an extraordinary amount of money for computers, software and cat6.
    If anyone has been failed by the current 911 program due to the states failure to meet their responsibility than I would rather see class-action rather than tax dollars being thrown their way.
    Vote no when the warrant emerges, and warn your fellow taxpayers- this is nothing short of a scam.

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