Thursday, December 9, 2010


In doing their work session study this past Tuesday, Commissioner-elect Janet Creighton and Commissioner Tom Bernabei are providing the "in-process" rehab of Stark County 9-1-1 system its best chance to get off on "the right foot."  That is to say, in a more technical way:  with "sustainable practicality."

Too much, in recent times, what government and business do throughout America is unsustainable.

Going back just a few years and former President Bush's "everybody in America - a home owner" program, as laudable as it was, was unrealistic when it got to the point that it generated "liar loans" and the like which resulted in the massive foreclosure problem that threatened to bring the USA and all of its political subdivisions to their collective economic/financial knees.

Some government leaders have figured out the problem of governments fostering "unsustainable" programs and practices and are taking measures to stop the undermining of the viability of the greatness of America.

Once such effort appears to be taking place right here in Stark County with our newly elected commissioners:  Janet Creighton and Thomas Bernabei.

Former commissioners (Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) made an incredible blunder in December, 2008 in "imposing" a 0.50 sales tax for the obstensible purpose of rebuilding Stark County's broken 9-1-1 system.

Imposing the tax was, in the imposing, a "poison" pill which threatened to kill the root goal (fixing 9-1-1) of having the revenues in the first place.  Then the imposing triad decided that the imposition was not enough.  They added a "for the general fund aspect" to the tax and in promoting acceptance of the tax by the Stark County public "downplayed" - to say the very least, the general fund part of the tax increase.  The downplaying gave Stark Countians the idea that their government was not being very forthright with them.

And, then - four months later - came the revelation of the Frustaci theft from the Stark treasury and Stark Countians were in a tizzy about the reliability of Stark County government.

So now it is up to newly elected officials (Bernabei and Creighton) as well as Zumbar at treasury and Harold at the auditor's office and the bevy of political subdivision officials (villiage, city, township and board of education officials) to pick up the pieces and take concerted actions to restore the public's trust in local government.


In observing the work session of Tuesday past on the 9-1-1 situation, it became apparent to the SCPR that the commissioners' focus was on the viability of the configuration of the project.

While the commissioners are not involved directly in the governance of the project, they could conceivably take the $2.75 million sitting in a general fund account and apply the money to the 16% shortfall of general fund monies for the 2011 budges and in that way kill the rehab of 9-1-1.

The Stark County Political Report does not believe that the diversion of 9-1-1 monies will happen for two reasons:  first, Sheriff Swanson, The Reporth has learned, is on record as saying that he will not be pursuing the $2.75 million to apply to his budget shortfall because it would be like applying a band-aid to a gaping hole.  Secondly, the vetting by commissioners of Concatto/Gonzalez revealed weaknesses in the plan that in taking corrective action upon gives commissioners the assurances they need that a reconfigured 9-1-1 will, indeed, work and move forward with what appears to be a sustainable financial model.

Every Stark County public officials needs to follow the Bernabei/Creighton model of local governing.  For whenever there is a failure in sustainability, it leaves a bad taste in the people's mouths and governing becomes that much more difficult across the governing spectrum.

What have Bernabei and Creighton discovered about the 9-1-1 project in process?  First, there are weaknesses how ongoing personnel costs will be funded and, moreover, secondly, a consideration of whether or not the funds are likely to be there for capital improvements (i.e. the call receiving equipment and the computer assisted dispatch/radio factors) as new technology comes on board.

What remedies for the weaknesses are to be found?

On the personnel costs (call center employees and dispatchers) there are the "wireless fund monies" at 28 cents per cellphone customer in Ohio imposed by the Ohio legislature running through December 31, 2012.  That fund (on The Report's analysis) will generate enough money to pay for the call center (in the sense of receiving calls) employees.  And, on the equipment side, it will generate enough money (when coupled with a 1/10th of one mill property tax levy due to expire in 2012) to pay for an upgrade in the "Plant CML" call receiving system which will likely (according to Stark EMA Director Tim Warstler) be out-of-date five (5) to seven (7) years.

The word is that the Stark County legislative delegation (Oelslager, Schuring, Slesnick and Snitchler) is asking what they can do to help with the future viability of Stark's 9-1-1. 

The answer?  Very simple.  They need - at the very minimum - to push through an extension of the 28 cents wireless fund assessment.  The assessment generates $900,000 annually for Stark.  Ideally, they will push for an increase.  For if they do, (let's say a doubling to about 60 cents per month per cellphone user), then Stark County will not have to worry whether or not the 1/10th of a mill property tax levy is renewed by Stark Countians, which the SCPR thinks is worrisome given the downward spiraling economic times we now live in.

Another answer that was generated by Benabei/Creighton questioning of Project Manger Joe Concatto and Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) 9-1-1 Countywide Governance Committee chairman Randy Gonzalez is this:  9-1-1 will be financed by "user fees" going forward, and therefore, the fees have to sufficient to pay for the dispatchers (some 80 or so) who will man the system when it becomes narrowed down to two locales (the Canton center and the Sheriff's center) and, moreover, the fees will have to be high enough to generate a "capital improvement fund" so that out-of-production Motorola Centracom Golden Elite consoles that are to be the backbone of the initial setup for the dispatch side of 9-1-1 can be replaced with state-of-the-art equipment in five years or so.

Honing the user fees to provide for future viability and sustainability is no easy task for Concatto, Gonzalez and their fellows.  How is that?

Although all but one local dispatch center (CenCom - sponsored by the Nimishillen trustees) have accepted  Countywide 911's offer of remote hosting equipment to receive calls (i.e. AT&T's Plant CML - which is to been in place at the localized dispatch centers by May, 2011); whether or not Stark County can get to the next step - relocating the local center dispatchers to the Canton Center (nine dispatch consoles staffed with about 40 dispatchers around the clock) and to a redundant center at the Sheriff's facility (also nine dispatch consoles with about 40 dispatchers around the clock) is "still" problematical.

Really?  What is the possible hitch?

Localities (Alliance, Minerva, North Canton, Perry Township, Plain Township and the Red Center) will have to make a determination that it financially pays off for them to merge into the two redundant centers before they will give up their locality-based dispatching centers.

Just as an aside, Nimishillen Township's CenCom and the county fire and police department served by CenCom (in the opinion of the SCPR) - when Stark's countywide systems gets up and running next May (2011) or whenever, will be a step behind the county system.

How so?

A part of the countywide build up to centralized countywide 9-1-1 call receiving and dispatch involves a stage in which all of the current localized dispatch centers (Alliance, Minerva, North Canton, Plain Township, Perry Township and ems, fire and police served by the Red Center) will receive access as Public Safety Access Points (PSAP) remotely.  CenCom's customers (according to 9-1-1 project manager Joe Concatto) will not.   CenCom (despite the best efforts of Trustee Allen Gress) rejected the county's offer of equipment which would enable "remote" dispatching capability and therefore will not have the ability to lessen by one step the process by which an emergency 9-1-1 caller get a dispatcher to send an emergency unit to site of the emergency.

If Stark County gets to a centralized countywide 9-1-1 call receiving and dispatch operation, because of the work of Bernabei and Creighton along with the prior efforts of Stark County's political subdivision police and fire chiefs (including the recalcitrant Rich Peterson of CenCom/Nimishillen Township) it will be one of the very best economically sustainable and viable systems in all of Ohio and, perhaps, even in the nation.

By building government services - in a transparent, accessible manner - like it appears that Stark's 9-1-1 is in the making; local government officials do themselves and all government officials a hugely good turn in restoring citizen confidence in the responsiveness and attentiveness of government to the needs of everydays.

The Report applauds participants in the vetting process (democracy at work) for being part of the mix.  Gonzalez, Concatto and Warstler are singled out for their persistence and flexibility.  Moreover, though they - in the opinion of the SCPR - chose an unwise course for the funding mechanism, Commissioner Todd Bosley and former Commissioners Harmon and Vignos have made significant contributions to the building of a viable countywide 9-1-1 system.

Here is a video of Warstler and Concatto making a recent presentation to county commissioners.

Here is a video showing Creighton and Benabei vetting Concatto and Gonzalez on the cost factor of countywide centralized 9-1-1. It is quite revealing!

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