It sent shockwaves through Stark County officialdom when Sheriff Tim Swanson on April 29th sent an e-mail to county commissioners which was generally perceived to be the "death knell" of a reworked countywide 9-1-1 system.
Here is the essence of that e-mail:
We’re not interested in proceeding with the dispatch center at this time.
We are combined with Canton in regards to the radio system. Any further issues with dispatching will involve Canton and the Sheriff’s Office. The future dispatch issues will involve dispatching and the radio system and both of us will discuss the issues with any interested party.
In review of the status of everything that’s occurred, and the reluctance of other law enforcement and fire departments to participate at this time or to contract for services, we will regroup and proceed at sometime in the future with Canton.
Truthfully, right now we are more concerned with making it through this year with the allotted budget and preparing for next year’s possible calamity.
There isn’t a need for any meeting at this time, we are NOT moving forward at this time.
We (Canton and SO) have worked very hard and made many compromises to help enable the creation of the dispatch center.
There are still those that do not wish to participate or utilize the proposed dispatch center. With that in mind, we’re not going to spend any more time trying to make it happen now.
The proper process would be to create the center and switch to the 800 radio system and it appears some in the county are still not interested.
Perhaps in the future their thoughts would change. One shouldn’t happen without the other.
However, in Canton (the Healy/Ream duo) and in Nimishillen Township (Township officials and Fire Chief Rich Peterson) they probably broke out the champagne.We are satisfied with the efforts that have been made to better what we have but also can live with the fact that others aren’t interested at this time. We will continue to operate our own dispatch center and our combined radio system and be opened minded to discuss any future dispatching and radio system issues.
Nimishillen Township officials have gotten themselves into hock with it new $1 million fire station a number of years ago and need to keep its dispatching operation going (mostly for fire) in order to generate the money just to pay the fire station mortgage. However, calls continue to be and will continue to be received by the Stark County Sheriff call center (SCCC) which means that those needing emergency services in Nimishillen (not Louisville which has already merged with the Canton Communications Center - CCC) will, consequently, have a lesser quality of service (according to 9-1-1 Project Manager Joe Concatto) than most other areas in Stark County.
Had Nimishillen accepted new equipment offered by the 9-1-1 rehab effort, such would not be gthe case. For with the new setup Nimishillen's CenCom would receive the call and dispatch in on fell swoop.
Originally, Canton was on board with the 9-1-1 countywide rehab. However, somewhere in the past six months ago Safety Director Tom Ream and Mayor William J. Healy, II had an epiphany.
Yes and epiphany. It probably dawned on Ream and Healy after Louisville joined the CCC and began paying for access and use to the Canton system: "Hey, why didn't we figure this out before! If only we can get most of Stark County's political subdivisions to join us here in Canton, we can make a our CCC a profit making center. Why would we want to join a countywide system when we can have it all here in Canton. Duh?"
County 9-1-1 officials probably are kicking themselves for allowing Ream to become the president of the Stark Council of Governments (SCOG). It was about a month ago or so that Ream sent a Canton fire captain to "take over" the county 9-1-1 planning process when it appeared to him that Concatto would be departing due to the fact that the federal funding for the project manager position was running out.
What he (Ream) did not accurately access was that too many in the Stark County political subdivision fire and police leadership cirles are not about to allow Canton (Healy) to take over their operations in the context of their working to meld into a more effective and efficient countywide system.
Hurriedly, the opposition demanded Ream call a meeting of the SCOG Executive Committee. Ream refused. Led by Healy political enemy and Stark County Commissioner Tom Bernabei, the opposition found three members of SCOG to call the meeting over Ream's refusal. Result? Concatto was hired to stay on for at least six months to complete the planning and implementation of a rehabbed 9-1-1 countywide system.
During Healy's campaign with Smuckler, the councilman made a issue on the foot dragging by Healy and Ream on "a letter of intent" sent by the countywide 9-1-1 folks asking Canton to formally commit to the plan whereby the CCC would be the hub (backed up by the SCCC) of the new configuration. Smuckler's motivation was two fold. First, to find about $480,000 for Canton sorely strapped finances and, contrary to Healy is has a need to dominate, Smuckler has a long history of advocating for government consolidations and efficiencies.
One of the things that the Healy administration has done with Canton City Council (Council) - especially those members who oppose the administration on various issues - is to not communicate with them and to exclude them from the decision making process.
Since he was challenging Healy for the mayorality, of course, Smuckler and his supporters on Council were being left out of the 9-1-1 loop (e.g. the "letter of intent" matter). That's how Healy operates. He punishes those who oppose him, those who differ with him.
The SCPR believes that Smuckler waited way too long to make an issue of the Healy arrogance. But finally he got an agreement from the administration to hold a meeting for Council members (through Healy supporter Councilman Thomas West as chair of the Judiciary Committee) to become informed with the meeting being scheduled for May 18th.
Well, guess what has happened to the meeting of the 18th since the Swanson e-mail surface and Healy et al figured that the were in "the catbird seat" on 9-1-1. Yep! It got canceled!!
To boot, the SCPR believes that there are other motivations for Healy's resistance to anyone other than Canton running a countywide 9-1-1.
9-1-1 Project Manager Concatto is a former official with the Healy-intensely-hated Creighton administration whom healy defeated in 2007 in a bitter, bitter campaign to become mayor of Canton. When Healy became mayor is primary thing was to trash Creighton and the mess he says that she left Canton in.
Now add this. Healy survived his contest in this year's Democratic primary with Councilman Bill Smuckler (who, by the way defeated Healy for the right to run against Creighton for mayor in 2003. But guess who he is going up against this November?
You've got it! In a sense, none other than now Stark County Commissioner Janet Creighton in the person of former Creighton administration (2004 - 2007) official A.R. "Chip" Conde who bested Leon Gerig in the Republican primary about two weeks ago.
In checking the campaign finance statements of Conde, guess who were contributors to his campaign? Of course, Creighton - in a major way - and Concatto in a lesser but significant way.
So, while the financial thing is the main thing; this little political tidbit is not lost on the consummately political Healy and the political alliances and connections of the Creighton associates add fuel to his fire to be the political lord and master in Stark County. Along these lines, if he is re-elected, look for him (if his allies Allen, Resnick and McIllwain remain on the Canton City Schools Board of Education) to make moves to consolidate his de facto sway over Canton K-12 education.
Stark County officials and SCOG officials realize that the 9-1-1 countywide project "is deader than a door nail" if Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson joins with Healy and Nimishillen Fire Chief Richard Peterson (who appears to control the trustees based on the fire station mortgage situation).
Healy/Ream (if Canton is not running it) and Peterson (since he was not selected 9-1-1 project manager) are opposed to a county consolidated 9-1-1. Swanson is not because he does not appear to have a personal agenda. But he is frustrated with all the delays.
Thursday's meeting of the well-attended SCOG Governance Committee (chaired by Jackson Township fiscal officer Randy Gonzalez) may have been a turning point in the battle between the Healy forces and his foes. It is noteworthy that Canton has not shown up for these meetings for three months running.
Sheriff Swanson showed up prepared to answer any and all questions that his April 29th e-mail generated.
And answer them he did. While some say that Swanson did not alter his position, The Report hears that such is not the perception of those who were at the meeting. At least in terms of Swanson's willingness to listen to and work with anyone who genuinely is willing to work together to making a countywide plan work.
Here is Swanson's e-mail (May 13th) to the SCPR addressing several questions that the Report had for him on his April 29th e-mail and what yours truly was told about the discussion at last Thursday's SCOG Governance Committee meeting, to wit:
I and the City of Canton will remain open for discussion on the issue. I have tried everything possible to cooperate and compromise on issues to make this work.
It just appears anything we (Gov. Bd.) do is met with opposition or more hurdles are placed in front of the project. It doesn’t appear to me that I should waste any more time on this issue, but try and develop a funding mechanism to properly fund SCOG (Crime Lab, Metro & Child Abuse Investigator).
With local government funding being cut by the State, this directly impacts the funding of SCOG. There also legal issues that really need to be accomplished before we proceed and the Gov. Bd.is (sic) working on that issue.
The City had NO impact on my decision. CenCom had NO impact either.
In talking with Gonzalez, The Report pushed him on the question of the sustainability of 9-1-1 finances over the long term. He is adamant that between the user fees, the 9-1-1 wireless fund and the property tax that supports 9-1-1 that the finances are in place to sustain a countywide plan.I think with the cut in local government funds that we have to be sure that we can first fund SCOG and then address the dispatching issue again.I remain optimistic, that someday everyone will see the light and all move to the 800 system and central dispatching, maybe just not in my time?I still support the project and will remain a member of the Governance Board and always try to move forward in a positive manner when appropriate.Sheriff
To sum it up, the SCPR believes that the analysis that countywide 9-1-1 is dead is premature.
There is talk that the major players on 9-1-1 (referring to Canton, the Sheriff and SCOG officials) will meet in early June to determine whether or not the Canton/Stark County Sheriff model can be salvaged.
The Report believes that Healy and Ream will find one pretext or another to scuttle such a meeting.
It is clear to yours truly that Sheriff Swanson is the key to whether or not 9-1-1 lives or dies.
Even if Canton "takes its ball and goes home" like the little boy who hasn't gotten his way (as the SCPR expects Healy and Ream to do), there is an alternative. Countywide advocates could pair up the RED Center with the Sheriff's operation and achieve an all but Nimishillen and Canton consolidation.
Bullies like Canton and Nimishillen should never be permitted to be the tail that wags the dog.
If he will, Sheriff Swanson can rise to the occasion and be a leader on working with "a coalition of the willing" to help Stark County to repair a badly broken 9-1-1 and thereby leave a legacy of having helped the county solve a major problem.
But will he?