Centerville’s town council is making alternate plans for how its after-hours, nonemergency utility calls will be answered as of July 1.

Wayne County Emergency Communications dispatchers currently answer those calls, but Director Matthew Cain said the operations board asked the town to find another solution.

Dispatchers are receiving an increasing number of non-emergency calls, particularly during weather events affecting the town’s electricity, Cain told Western Wayne News.

Centerville currently advertises its non-emergency police department number as the contact for after-hours utility issues, but few realize that number is forwarded 24/7 to the county’s 911 dispatch center, Cain said.

Centerville is the only Wayne County town utilizing the dispatch center for after-hours utility calls. It’s also the only town that manages its water, electric and sewer services.

Other local municipalities use after-hours cellphones or answering services, Cain said.  

During weather events, dispatchers are inundated with calls from Centerville residents inquiring about power outages, estimated times for power restoration and similar concerns. They also accept calls throughout the year from customers whose power was intentionally disconnected for nonpayment or other reasons.

“Rest assured, we will continue to promptly answer 911 calls reporting utility emergencies such as downed power lines or utility pole fires,” Cain said. “However, the increasing volume of nonurgent calls forwarded to us, particularly during weather events, is starting to impede our agency’s primary mission of providing emergency services to the residents and responders of Wayne County.”

Clerk-Treasurer Richard Tincher said he understands how high the call volume can be during power outages because all four or five office workers frantically try to keep up with those calls when they occur during the workday.

Council President Dan Wandersee said it will cost Centerville about $4,000 annually to hire a Muncie company that also handles calls for other Wayne County towns. Cambridge City pays about that amount. However, the town’s final price will be based on call volume.

Council voted 5-0 to hire the Muncie company.

Wandersee did so reluctantly, saying he thinks the county should cover that new cost because town residents pay 911 fees through landline and cellphones, and he wants to pursue the matter further.

Wandersee asked Slick to obtain a copy of the county’s 911 budget to learn more about local spending, and said he planned to contact the Department of Homeland Security and the state’s 911 board to hear their perspectives.

Councilor Joshua Tudor suggested the town should distribute new literature explaining what numbers residents should call, depending on the timing and nature of their utility concern.

Residents should continue using 765-855-5222 for urgent after-hours utility issues until June 30.

Councilors also urged Centerville residents with medical devices requiring electricity to continue calling 911 if they lose power and not to rely on the non-emergency number.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 7 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.