It has been a busy month of consolidation talks in Kenton County.
At long last, the City of Erlanger is moving forward with exploring the dissolution of its emergency dispatch center and joining Kenton County.
And, a study is underway to explore the possibility of joining the Kenton County Sheriff's Office and the Kenton County Police Department.
Attorney Jim Parsons is handling the study, at no cost to the county.
"Our goal is to have somebody who is very knowledgeable about police departments and sheriff departments and have them evaluate whether or not it is a viable option," said Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann. "Is it a viable idea to take to the next steps? That's what Jim is there for."
The study was mentioned by County Commissioner Jon Draud during a Fiscal Court meeting in Independence earlier this month.
"I think it's the right thing to do and at least we'll have some data that we can look at and Jim Parsons is going to do it for nothing. The price is right," Draud joked. "I hope we get a better study. I think it's a good thing we're pursuing that."
Both Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn and Police Chief Spike Jones are open to the possibility of a merger.
"I think it's a responsible thing to look into it and if it can be shown that it increases the level of services and decreases the burden on the taxpayers, it certainly should be considered," Jones said. "I say that cautiously. We don't know just as of yet the data that Mr. Parsons will be able to collect, so I'm very optimistic that his study will shed some very needed light on the subject and we'll be able to make an informed decision."
"I'd be glad to do it," Korzenborn said. "Anytime I can get more people, and we could probably save some money."
Korzenborn concedes that it may take a while before any financials savings are revealed, but that the possible merger would eliminate a duplication of services.
"What's happening is, expenses are getting so high that the retirement is going to go up real steep," Korzenborn said. "It's getting to be quite a burden on small agencies so maybe we can help them out."
Knochelmann agreed, as partnerships and consolidation are more openly explored in multiple areas across the region.
"I think what you're seeing today is, financial burdens and operational costs are so high that it requires good leaders, and both city leaders and county leaders, and fire and police chiefs look at their costs, and if there is a more efficient option, I think most of them are looking at what options they might have," he said. "
Korzenborn said that his department has experience working with other departments. Local chiefs asked him several years ago to take permanent control of the Kenton County SWAT Team, he said, and later Campbell County joined in. "It's been very successful and has come to the attention of a lot of federal agencies," the sheriff said.
There is no official timeline on any possible merger as the issue is just now being evaluated.
"We'll look at budget, look at structure, look at duties," Knochelmann said. "If it makes sense, we'll take the next step."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher