Friday, April 19, 2013


UPDATED:  09:00 AM

Gonzalez:  The Original Purpose

Burgasser:  The Selfishess

Concatto:  The Dream

Concatto:  The Nuts & Bolts 
A week ago yesterday, the Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) Governance Committee (chaired by Jackson Township Fiscal Officer Randy Gonzalez) met at the training room of the Stark County Sheriff Department regarding the seemingly eternal quest of SCOG to realize a centralized, countywide 9-1-1 state-of-the-art dispatching center.

This is news?

It is.

How so?

First of all, the effort has been stalled for months.  No meetings, no nothing!

Secondly, the topics discussed.

An important starting point is a statement made by Chairman Gonzalez during the meeting in reminding the members that the first and foremost goal of the committee starting out was to make Stark County a safer community in terms of providing emergency services to Stark Countians.

In that regard the discussion turned to: 

What is Stark County going to do with the approximately $2.35 million sitting in a "9-1-1 fund" within the county general fund?

Is SCOG going to purchase a state-of-the-art Computed Aid Dispatch (CAD) system or to apply the money towards getting all Stark County safety forces "up-to-snuff" on state-the-art 800 mhz radios?

This is money that remains from tax revenues collected from the-then (December, 2008) Bosley, Harmon and Vignos Stark County Board of Commissioners' imposed 0.5% sales tax.

Readers will recall that the public presentation was that the tax was primarily for a rehab of a broken county 9-1-1 system (according to a report commissioned by SCOG).

However, on deeper scrutiny, it was discovered that the tax also included half of the revenues generated going to the county general fund.

This discovery together with the tax being "imposed" was enough to get the blood of a band of irate citizens boiling to the point of successfully circulating petitions for a ballot initiative to repeal the tax on the November, 2009 ballot.

The rest is well known history,  The repeal was overwhelmingly approved.

As it turns out the Bosley, Harmon and Vignos group of commissioners were exercising vision in providing for a rehabbed Stark County CAD and radio system.

But they got greedy in tagging on the general fund money.

And they got arrogant in "imposing" the tax.

But for those fatal flaws, the necessary financing was in place and Stark County might well have by now realized Concatto's dream. 

In a little bit of an ironical twist, one of the attendees at last Thursday's meeting was former Commissioner Jane Vignos.

Another factor in the interruption in the march towards having one Stark County dispatch has been Mayor William J. Healy, II of Canton.

After saying that he was for countywide centralized dispatch with Canton's Communications Center and the Stark County Sheriff's dispatch hub serving has redundant physical infrastructure to house operations, when presented with a lease by SCOG he backed away.


The SCPR's take is that Healy would no longer be in charge after the convergence and therefore, as - seemingly - always,  if Hizzoner is not the chief of things post-merger then it (whatever the project is) is "no go."

So what did the Thursday, April 11 produce?

Well, to tell the truth, it is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Some of Stark County's safety force gurus want the CAD system, some want the radios and a number want a mix of the two.

And this division of desires is another key component of Stark County's 9-1-1 consolidation problem!

Fragmentation, fragmentation and fragmentation, once again.

One could also say turfism, turfism and turfism, once again.

The frustration of fragmentation or turfism, whichever term one might use, was best articulated at the meeting by Fire Chief Tom Burgasser of Massillon.

The SCPR's take on the April 11th meeting at 4500 Atlantic Boulevard was that there was "no big picture to emerge."

Such was the case even though the the assembly had the advantage of having RCC Consultants, Inc's Leo Birbilas (PMP, ENP) present.

The fallback position?

More inquiry, more surveying of the Stark's safety forces and more consultation.

But then this past Tuesday (April 16) 9-1-1 Project Coordinator Joe Concatto (on a contract basis) appeared at one of the Stark County commissioners' work sessions to give an overview of where SCOG Governance is in developing and implementing a plan to use the $2.35 million.

In an overall sense the encouraging thing about Concatto's commissioners' meeting appearance was his articulation of still having a dream for Stark County to achieve a state-of-the-art centralized dispatch system.

Encouraging?  Yes.  For those of us who think 9-1-1 is not yet what it ought to be and for the enhanced safety of Stark Countians:
  • a new centralized CAD system needs to be purchased and implemented whereby all of Stark's dispatchers are centrally located, and
  • Stark's village, city and township police, fire and EMS workers and  deputy sheriffs, are connected on state-of-the-art radios communicating over a state-of-the-art broadcasting system (e.g. MARCS - "Multi-Agency Radio Communications System" LINK to slide presentation)
Realistic?  Probably not.

Why not?

In the view of the SCPR because of:
  • the lack of a visionary, take charge person who will take ownership of bringing Stark County into the 21st century with its emergency services communication system,
  • the lack of a leadership person with the commitment and dedication to find:
    • the lack of necessary monies to purchase the CAD system and to fund the system's annual maintenance costs,
      • (probably about $1.5 million capital purchase and $0.6 to $0.9 million or so in maintenance over a five year period of time),
    • the lack of necessary monies to get every safety service provider (police, fire and emergency forces) on 800 megahertzP25 radios,
      • (probably about $2.5 million in capital purchase costs [between new radios {$3,000 to $4,000 each} and upgraded radios {$300 each}] constituting a total of approximately 1500 radios across Stark County)
    • the lack of necessary monies to hook on the State of Ohio MARCS radio network
The Stark County Political Report also makes available (see at the end of this blog) the rest of Concatto's entire presentation which goes into the details of his effort to put together a plan to use the $2.35 million.

Time seems to be of the essence.

The CAD bids, Concatto says, have a limited life span.

Reviewing Concatto's presentation to the commissioners, the following points stick out:
  • the State of Ohio's CAD system is not a cost effective for Stark County to join.  Other negatives include:
    • Stark County being the first non-state agency on the state CAD and therefore would experience integration pains that being the first would ential,
    • Ohio's system, though a good system, would "compromise" Stark County's "perhaps, best in Ohio" GIS (Graphic Information System) mapping system,
  • SCOG is narrowing down (to be done in 30 days or less) from the nine bids to two or three bids to choose from ($1.5 million for the capital purchase [paid for from the $2.35 million currently held in the county general fund by the commissioners] and $0.6 to $0.9 million spread over a five year period in annual maintenance costs [to be borne in fees charged to participating Stark County-based dispatch centers],
    • Stark County currently has eight such centers with the main three in terms of projected participation would be:
      • the Stark County sheriff,
      • the Canton Communications Center, and
      • the Regional Emergency Dispatch (RED) Center (located in Jackson Township's government complex)
  • there is (and the SCPR adds in Concatto's estimate) "renewed hope" among the SCOG membership growing out of last Thursday meeting (something the SCPR did not catch) of renewing the effort to go to a one-dispatch-center as originally envisioned when the imposed 0.5% sales tax occurred,
    • (SCPR note:  apparently Concatto bases the "renewed hope" with the introduction of George T. Maier as sheriff (appointed to replace Mike McDonald by Stark Democrats on February 5th) and with Warren Price taking on the duties of safety director in Canton
  • acknowledged that SCOG cannot continue to "talk about renewed hope, but that the have to do new hope,"
  • competitive to buying a CAD system with the $2.35 million in funds available is upgrading the the $20 million in cost 800 mhz city/county radio system purchased over recent years with local, state and federal dollars,
    • but that like CAD, Stark County's 800 mhz radio system is a hodgepodge of differentiated systems some of which cannot talk to each other,
      • e.g. North Canton has a 800 mhz system that is with the State of Ohio MARCS system, and
      • Canton Township has a 800 mhz system and the township is looking to join MARCS,
  • that the wave of the future is for the county to join MARCS in its Tier II mode and that the county is zeroing in on that cost.
    • (Note:  Concatto gave an example of MARCS telling Stark County that MARCS needed 5 of Stark County's 10 towers for MARCS to upgrade (so that the system and be accessed from within fire, police and ems stations) at perhaps a cost of $2 million 50% of which would be rebated to the county in the form of credits for ongoing annual maintenance costs,
      •  e.g. MARCS charges $20 per month per radio, so using the estimate that there are 1500 Stark County-based radios the annual fees would be about $360,000  (a SCPR calculation; not Concatto's),
    •  Concatto also revealed that going to MARCS and 800 mhz P25 X7 platform would entail the purchase of 20 work stations at a cost of $1.4 million as necessary hardware to handle the 800 mhz radio traffic,
    • there would also be a "connection cost" from Stark County dispatch to the Lake County site of MARCS,
  • that the need to go to MARCS is based on the current cost to Stark County of spending about $700,000 a year in tower maintenance and 800 mhz system maintenance not that Stark County's 800 mhz does not have additional life (perhaps, as much as 4 to 5 years),
What follows in a spreadsheet in which the Stark County Political Report projects costs of implementing a state-of-the-art CAD and 800 Mhz radio system.

While it is Joe Concatto's dream to have a state-of-the-art countywide central dispatching system; given:
  • the current rivalries among Stark County political subdivisions 
  • Prime culprits are (in the opinion of the SCPR):
    • Nimishillen Township's CenCom headed up by Fire Chief Rich Peterson), and
    • Canton's Mayor William J. Healy, II (as mentioned above),
  • the lack of dynamic, committed leadership in terms of fashioning a vision of moving persistently towards realizing what might be,
    • While the currently Stark County of Board Commissioners is likely to stick to their plan to spend the remaining monies from the "imposed" sales tax on 9-1-1 improvement in some way, shape or form, they are not visionaries who might put together a financial plan to complete the project.
    • The SCPR believes that the commissioners were very conservative in putting forth a 0.5% sales tax in November, 2011 which passed by a comfortable margin.  The Report believes that their shortsightedness and their lack of fortitude in making tax a 1% increase will haunt Stark County government for years to come.
  • the lack of a skilled leader who can generate funding mechanisms that are essential ingredients if capital and maintenance needs are to have adequate financial resources, and
    • One has to wonder where the leaders are that Leadership Stark County (a Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce project) is supposed to be producing.  The Report's take is that Leadership Stark County is mostly a "splash and dash" effort that participants are using to build impressive sounding resumes with little to show in actual leadership for projects such as the 9-1-1.
  • local interests prevailing over countywide interests,
it is likely that Joe Concatto will have to "dream away!"

Definition of expression Dream Away:  "to waste away a period of time having fantasies."

Is "Dream Away" what Concatto is into on his vision that Stark County one day soon might have centralized, countywide state-of-the-art dispatch center with Stark's police, fire and EMT workers having state-of-the-art communication?

Or will someone in the Stark County pool of leadership talent step forward and make it a "dream realized?"

Here is the rest of the Concatto video in which he explains (in detail) what it will take to realize his dream.

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