SMUCKLER WRITES LETTER TO CANTON COUNCILPERSON WEST (CHAIRMAN OF THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE) ASKING FOR PUBLIC MEETING OF STATUS OF CANTON'S INVOLVEMENT IN THE COUNTYWIDE REHAB OF 9-1-1
Could it be that Mayor William J. Healy, II is in the process of un-blockading the progress of the rehabilitation of Stark County's broken 9-1-1 emergency call receiving/dispatch services?
On Tuesday, the general membership of the Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) met to make a final SCOG decision on whether or not Project Manager Joe Concatto was going to continue to function in that capacity for at least another six months.
Earlier in April, SCOG's Executive Committee (Committee) met and and the committee head, Canton Safety Director Thomas Ream (presumably under orders from Mayor Healy) was the sole vote of those present and vote (eight in total) to vote no on Concatto's continuing on. What's more is that Ream had in late March ordered a fire department captain to look into taking over the project manager function as Concatto's funding (a federal grant) ran out on March 31st.
Other members of the Committee learned of Ream's highhanded action and asked him to call a meeting of the Committee to consider and decide whether or not Concatto was going to stay on SCOG's dime. But Ream refused. So the requesters (chief of whom was Stark County commissioner Thomas Bernabei [a former Healy administration official who was fired by Healy early on]) called the meeting themselves.
The Committee decided to recommend to the SCOG general membership that Concatto be kept on for at least six months working 20 hours a week at $30 per hour for a grand total of $15,600 authorized.
At yesterday's general membership, it appears that the Healy administration may be having a "change of heart" on the recent emergence of opposition which the SCPR believes caught the SCOG leadership (other than Ream himself, obviously) by surprise.
Canton stands to save about $480,000 by merging its 30th Street communications center (Center) into the countywide system and consequently the Healy administration opposition became a political football when during the March meeting of Mayor Healy's monthly meeting series on finding ways and means to solve Canton's financial problems when Healy opponent and Councilman at Large Bill Smuckler challenged Healy to get off his rump (The Report's words) and act on SCOG's request that Canton formalize the city's intent to follow through on a promise to let the Center to SCOG for $1 per year for a period of 99 years and thereby save Canton about half-a-million dollars a year.
At that meeting and since, the Healy administration (Administration) through Healy himself, Ream and others have been publishing various and sundry reasons why the Administration was dragging its feet.
It appears to the SCPR that the Administration's "real" motivation is that they realized that there was money to made from funds provided by countywide taxpayers (via the sales tax, the 9-1-1 wireless fund and a real property tax) to help Canton solve some portion of its financial woes.
The problem for Canton officials is that they realized they had repeatedly committed themselves to the 99 year lease for $1 per year in nearly every SCOG meeting of whatever level at which the topic came up after the idea had been advanced and signed onto by those same Canton officials.
Does Smuckler deserve credit for smoking Healy out on the matter?
The Report is unsure.
Well, The Report wanted to know of Smuckler why he didn't (as a member of Canton Council [Council]) insist on being put in the loop on the matter and face-to-face and smoke Healy and his acolytes out into the glare of the public spotlight as to why (in great detail) they "apparently" were changing their position on the lease.
As an aside: Mayor Healy, as a matter of general discussion (in other words, not specific to the 9-1-1 matter) on Tuesday evening before his State of the City address at Malone College, that he works with Council through Majority Leader David Dougherty and not through individual councilpersons.
Initially, Smuckler was to set such a public session up for a week ago yesterday, then last Thursday and then Friday. But to date, The Report has heard nothing from Smuckler as to when such a meeting will occur.
Ream's vote yesterday could be a signal that something has happened (Smuckler pressure or otherwise) to get movement out of the Administration.
At yesterday's general membership meeting, Randy Gonzalez (chairman of the SCOG 9-1-1 Governance Committee) referred to Division Fire Chief John Whitlach "abstaining" from a vote on one of SCOG's bodies considering the 9-1-1 matter.
The Stark County Political Report presents two videos at this end of this blog.
One is a lightly edited recording of yesterday's general session meeting of SCOG which is a good summary for readers of how SCOG has proceeded along historically, where it is now and what problems need to be solved before it comes to fruition.
The second is of Randy Gonzalez responding to The Report's follow up with questions that remained with yours truly as a consequence of the discussion in the general session, the chief of which was: how much longer can SCOG go without an answer from Canton. The answer: about 30 days.
Here are the videos.