The path for Dunwoody to decide how to handle its emergency 911 calls has been a winding one.

In recent weeks, members of a subcommittee of the Dunwoody City Council expressed confidence that the city could continue to receive its service from DeKalb County with significant improvements in 911 service.

However, city officials also recently ramped up negotiations with ChatComm, an emergency dispatch service operated by Sandy Springs and Johns Creek.

Noah Reiter, assistant city manager of Sandy Springs, said he recently fielded a phone call from Dunwoody City Manager Warren Hutmacher about a potential agreement.

“They are very much interested in a relationship with ChatComm,” he said during a regular ChatComm meeting held Jan. 21.

What’s the bottom line? Dunwoody officials said they are seeking a lower cost than a prior proposal Hutmacher has recommended to the City Council.

Under that plan, the city would pay $570,000 in startup costs and $1.2 million per year from 2011 to 2014 to join ChatComm.

There may be some wiggle room in the price, ChatComm officials have said. Noah Reiter, Sandy Springs assistant city manager, said it could be possible to reduce the number of staff ChatComm would need to add to serve Dunwoody.

Chatcomm could alter an agreement that could dedicate a dispatcher to Dunwoody’s emergency calls but reduce the support from 12 to 10 people.

“The only way we would be able to bring the annual subscription price is to reduce the number of employees,” Reiter said.

Dunwoody has spent months on the questions surrounding 911 service.

From either ChatComm or DeKalb County, Dunwoody city officials want a better service than they currently have.

DeKalb County has come to the table offering a better deal that wouldn’t cost Dunwoody any more than it is paying now.

Specifically, DeKalb is offering a dedicated dispatcher and a radio channel that monitors Dunwoody police calls. An agreement with DeKalb would also create a quarterly forum that would open the lines of communication between Dunwoody and DeKalb County police officials. Under Chatcomm, Dunwoody has a firm set of performance standards.

There’s some degree of financial risk for Dunwoody if it breaks away from DeKalb. The city estimates that it would reap somewhere between $900,000 and $1.3 million from the 911 fees generated from city residents.

Dunwoody has only estimates about its share of 911 user fees because it does not currently collect the fees.

DeKalb County does and reaps them from all county residents, making it difficult for Dunwoody officials to know exactly what they would receive if they broke away from DeKalb’s 911 service.

The vote has been rescheduled for a meeting in February.