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Trustees, chiefs divided in Brunswick Hills dispatch debate

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BRUNSWICK HILLS — Despite months of research and discussion, and with a deadline looming, Brunswick Hills Township trustees have yet to make a decision on what radio system the township should use for police and fire dispatch.

Tuesday’s township meeting, where officials devoted more than two hours of discussion to the topic, illustrated just how divisive the issue has become.

That’s because it’s not just a radio system trustees must decide on. The crux of the issue lies in where emergency calls in the township will be routed to in the future.

The township is trying to decide between the Multi-Agency Radio Communication (MARC) system which the city of Brunswick has decided to move to, and the Harris radio system offered through the sheriff’s department.

If they chose to go with the MARC system, they will be using the same system as the city. The city will continue to then provide dispatch services for the township. This is the current setup, however a contract between the city and township is set to expire at the end of the year.

If it is decided that the township will move to the Harris system, then the Medina County Sheriff’s Office will take over dispatch services.

Toward the end of the long meeting, Trustee Michael Esber made a motion for the township to stay with Brunswick and use the MARC system, but the motion did not receive a second from other board members.

Both the police and fire chiefs are divided on what system to use.

“So this debate, if you will, has been going on for a couple of months,” said fire Chief Anthony Strazzo, who wishes to stay with the city and use the MARC system.

He acknowledged that public safety, the safety of residents, of firefighters and of police officers is what’s most important.

He feels that the MARC system, as well as the partnership with the city, will fulfill that need.

“Safetywise, we need to stay there,” said Strazzo.

Strazzo said that the township and city are intertwined because of the services they share including the tornado sirens. Also, the township has a police officer in Brunswick City Schools, which further connects the township and the city.

While police Chief Tim Sopkovich agrees that public safety is the top concern, he thinks that the Harris System is the best route to go.

“I understand we need safety services here and we’re doing a great job. What the sheriff has to offer is the best thing that’s out there,” said Sopkovich. “Right now, we need something immediately to make sure that officers are responding and that they are safe out there and, right now, that immediate answer is going to the sheriff’s office.”

Previous discussions offered more detail behind why each chief prefers a particular system.

Strazzo has said the Harris System doesn’t work in his fire stations and he worries about what would happen if he can’t get calls out to local hospitals and fire personnel in an emergency.

Brunswick police Chief Brian Ohlin has previously said the MARC System is the best in Medina County, in his opinion, because of tower placement in the county. He said Brunswick Hills is welcome to stay with the city, which is upgrading to the MARC System in 2019.

“When I was testing the radios I was able to talk back to one of my officers on a portable radio in multiple areas inside Cuyahogaa County, inside Summit County because of the strength of the tower system. ... It’s proven to be a better system,” he has said.

Trustees hope to make a decision by year’s end to match the contract already in place with Brunswick, but said if a deal is not made they can exercise an extension clause in the current contract for service continuity.

Contact reporter Alyssa Alfano at aalfano@medina-gazette.com.


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