Calling 911? In Lake County, dispatch services could cost some cities

Cities believe they already pay for the service through countywide taxes

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is asking municipalities to pay for dispatch services based on population.

A proposed agreement sent to Howey-in-the-Hills along with Umatilla, Astatula, Fruitland Park and Mascotte asks the municipalities to pay $12 per capita for dispatch services.

The agreement sent to Howey-in-the-Hills said the town would pay around $21,000 a year for dispatch if approved. The agreement also states for the first year the municipalities would only have to pay half of the full amount.

Now officials like Howey-in-the-Hills Town Manager Sean O’Keefe are coming together to get to the bottom of it.

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Howey-in-the-Hills recently passed a resolution at its town council meeting. O’Keefe said the other municipalities are taking up a similar resolution.

“Basically this starts the ball rolling,” O’Keefe said. “We send this off along with a letter to the Board of County Commissioners saying effectively, look, we’ve been asked to fund this this service. Our understanding is we’re already funding the service.”

According to a letter sent by the municipalities to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Board of County Commissioners, they said they believe they are already paying for dispatch through countywide taxes.

“The question is how is it equitable for someone who lives in a municipality to pay like everyone else pays, and then to be asked to pay again in their local municipal taxes to fund the same service,” O’Keefe said.

News 6 reached out to the sheriff’s office. In a statement, a spokesman said:

“Lake County is growing at a rapid pace and the explosive growth in population has resulted in a tremendous increase in the numbers of calls for service for our dispatchers. Such increased population in the cities specifically has greatly increased the demand for our dispatch services. We need more staff in order to handle this increased workload. Some cities, Leesburg and Eustis, currently prefer to handle their own dispatch services for their citizens at their sole expense. Other cities, Clermont, Lady Lake, Tavares, and Mount Dora, prefer to have the Sheriff’s Office handle their dispatch services and pay the Sheriff’s Office for the services provided. Combined, these cities pay the Sheriff’s Office over $1,000,000.00 a year for dispatch services.

“We are involved in ongoing discussions with county and city leaders regarding possible solutions to these funding issues and will continue working with them throughout this process.”

News 6 also reached out to the Lake County Commission. They said they are working on private meetings with the municipalities and the sheriff’s office.

Umatilla is expected to discuss its resolution about the dispatch agreement at its meeting on Tuesday.

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Emily joined WKMG-TV in November 2022.