Friday, November 19, 2010


Not too long before Stark County Commissioner Tom Harmon left the commissioners office, he and Commissioner Bosley got into a bit of a face-off on whether or not the entire amount designated in the commissioners resolution of December, 2008 when Commissioners Bosley, Harmon and Vignos voted to "impose" a 0.50 of one percent sales tax on Stark Countians would actually go towards 9-1-1 for the repair of a system that has been said by many Stark emergency force officials as being broken.

Harmon took the position (supported by Commissioner Pete Ferguson) that the entire amount (which, according to Project Manager Joe Concatto at Thursday night's Stark County Association monthly meeting was $5.2 million) owing to 9-1-1 under the original resolution,  was not going to go towards 9-1-1 but rather only $2.75 million would and the remainder would go to the county general fund because of the fiscal crisis the county then faced.

Persistent as he is, the SCPR's recollection is that Bosley brought it up again when Steve Meeks replaced Harmon as commissioner who quit his term early.  Meeks checked with his pal Randy Gonzalez (who is chairman of the Stark County Council of Governments [SCOG] Governance Committee) and was told that  SCOG could get by on the $2.75 million.

Gonzalez's position made it a "no-brainer" for Meeks and Ferguson and Bosley again lost the fight for the entire $5.2 million to go to the SCOG-Governance Committee.

Issue over?

Not at all!

With Sheriff Swanson and Prosecutor Ferrero set to layoff employees soon (Swanson - 41; Ferrero - 12), talk surfaced that the $2.75 million should go into the county general fund and not to 9-1-1 as safety and criminal justice enforcement is more dire and pressing that rehabbing 9-1-1.

Apparently, Gonzalez et al got nervous about the possibility that SCOG-Governance was going to lose the $2.75 million and so apparently prompted the Jackson trustees meeting at their meeting on November 15th  to send a letter to the commissioners, to an official of the Stark County Township Association (Anna Capaldi) and to all Stark County township halls entreating them to weigh-in on asking the commissioners maintain the $2.75 million for the 9-1-1 rework.

Well, the SCPR has just checked with the key players in the decision:  incoming commissioners Janet Creighton, Tom Bernabei (certified as commissioner yesterday by the Stark Board of Elections) and "continuing on" commissioner Pete Ferguson and, on the basis of the contacts, The Report believes that there seems to be little doubt that the commissioners - as of November 20th - will maintain the status quo on the $2.75 million and reaffirm that it will go towards the establishment of a countywide call receiving and dispatching rework of the emergency service.

Creighton told The Report she is in favor of the money remaining with 9-1-1 and Ferguson has told yours truly that he is of the same mind as he been and voted when the question came up before.

However, it will be about five to six weeks until the commissioners will make a final decision on the 2011 budget  In the meantime budget hearings for all Stark County's departments of government that get general fund money will be held and department heads are to appear before commissioners to discuss cuts in their 2011 budget appropriations.  Undoubtedly, the commissioners will have it brought home to them over and over again in various and sundry ways that the $2.75 million sure could soften the financial blow as it affects the rendering of critical services to Stark Countians.

One can imagine that it will even be suggested to commissioners and commissioners-elect that the $2.75 could be restored to 9-1-1 when a renewal of the 2011 expiring 0.25 sales tax occurs or, if it can be cobbled together, that the same could be made a provision in a being worked on possible proposal to have a dedicated "criminal justice sales tax" replace the 0.25 tax up for renewal.

Expect intense "behind the scenes" lobbying to take place with Ferguson, Creighton and Bernabei between now and decision day.

Are Stark Countians about to witness political sausage being made?

The Report believes so and the sausage making could alter what the commissioners will ultimately do with the funding issue.

Randy Gonzalez (being the consummate politician he is as chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party) knows better than most that in the world of politics one must anticipate movement.  Accordingly, he is wise in going on offense in using Jackson Township government (where he is fiscal officer) as a springboard to bring counter pressure on the commissioners present and to be not to waiver on the two previous stands already made by the body.

It is somewhat ironical that the political subdivisions (cities, villages and townships) may be instrumental in preserving the $2.75 million for 9-1-1 reconfiguration.  Originally, Commissioner Bosley's plan was to use the promise of "free" call receiving/dispatch to the subdivisions in order to get support for imposing the 0.50 of one percent sales tax.  However, that plan was shipwrecked by the "Vote No Increased Taxes Committee" headed by local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley and sidekick Tom Marcelli.  Moreover, Nimishillen Township Fire Chief Rich Peterson threw a monkey wrench into the mix by presenting an alternative plan which was bought into for a while by a number of the political subdivisions.

It was Gonzalez who bested Peterson by steering subdivision support away from the "Peterson plan" back to a "modified" original plan. 

Now the question is this:  How skilled Randy Gonzalez will be in closing the deal?

We shall find out soon.

My mama used to tell me as a kid:  "there can be many a slip between the cup and the lip."

But the ultimate question here is:  "will the cup runeth over with $2.75 million ever make it to the lip of Stark County 9-1-1?"

Here is a video of 9-1-1 Project Manger Joe Concatto speaking to 25 or so Stark County township officials on at Thursday's monthly meeting of the Stark County Township Association held in Plain Township.

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