Thursday, July 9, 2009


Right now it is a mess, that is the plan to centralize Stark's 9-1-1 operation.

From the beginning it has been plagued with fits and starts. What have the problems been?

First and foremost has been a funding modeling. That's until Commissioner Todd Bosley came up with the idea of imposing in 0.50 sales/use tax which he talked Commissioners Jane Vignos and Tom Harmon into supporting.

But this problem is not yet solved. A group known as Stark Citizens for the Right to Vote Committee apparently are busy collecting signatures to put the imposed sales tax up for a vote in November. However, the SCPR is somewhat skeptical of the groups' ability to get enough signatures. We will know for sure in 42 days because August 20th is the day the the nearly 14,000 valid signatures are required by law to be filed with the Stark County Board of Elections.

Another problem has been township/city turfism and the ego of at one of Stark emergency services officials.

A leading representative of turfism is the city of Alliance. Alliance's safety director Blaser is still hedging on a reconstructed Stark 9-1-1 as to whether or not Alliance will join the centralized unit. Nimishillen Township is bulking mainly because of the ego of Fire Chief Rich Peterson. Peterson was not selected as the head of the centralization project and therefore is resisting and so far has his trustees on board.

Nimishillen brings another problem that makes its participation in a countywide 9-1-1 system problematical. It has a fire station and 9-1-1 equipment to pay for. If it is not one of the dispatch centers, how does Nimishillen meet these payment obligations?

It probably can't. However, Commissioner Bosley is working on a plan to purchase the Nimishillen equipment which raises two additional questions: How will Nimishillen pay for the lightly used fire station itself and if the county purchases its equipment will the equipment be "state of the art" as promised by project manager Joseph Concatto?

Still another factor and probably the largest is money. Villages, townships and cities are strapped for cash with the downturn in the economy. Some of these entities are arguing that they were promised immediate savings (cash payments in the run up to the full fledged centralized dispatch) when the sales/use tax increase produced revenues which it has been doing for six months now to the tune of $2.2 million. (Who promised what with 911 dispatching costs - 07/08/92 - Kelli Young of The Rep).

Was a promise made?

The commissioners deny that such was the case. Various village, township and city officials disagree.

The SCPR has a theory about those who say the county made a promise.

Take the city of Massillon and city official/RED Dispatch Center board member Mike Loudiana. He is one of the leading proponents of the position that the County did make promises of early release money.

Undoubtedly, being the square shooter he is, Mike believes the commissioners made a promise. Maybe, just maybe, his recollection has been clarified by the need by Massillon to have money - right now money.

Massillon faces a $2.25 million budget deficit in 2009 (to avoid laying off safety forces, so says Auditor Jayne Fererro) and the mayor (Cicchinelli) is proposing to borrow the money by issuing a short-term bond to be repaid at the rate of $440,000 annually over five years. (Mayor: Borrow now and tax later, Massillon Independent, 06/29/90, Rink)

Where would the repayment money come from?

Between now and when centralized dispatch gets up and running in 2011 from cash payouts to Massillon from sales/use tax collections? And after that, from monies saved annually ($900,000 or so) in what Massillon pays the RED Center for police and fire dispatch services?

This scenario may help explain Loudiana's position that the villages, townships and cities of Stark County were promised early money from the county coffers.

There is enough equivocation on this matter for there to be a difference of opinion.

But the best approach is to follow the Plan A articulated by project manager Concatto and hold the money to ensure that centralized 9-1-1 has the necessary funding for the capital side of building the system.

Once Stark localities see how well Stark's centralized system is put together and operates, many of the local objections will evaporate.

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