Last Friday, The Stark County Political Report raised the question as to whether or not the county commissioners made a decision to upgrade the county's 9-1-1 dispatch system and in doing so might have cost county taxpayers $1 millon plus.
The Report believes that IF the commissioners made a costly mistake to Stark's taxpayers, it was all due to a "failure to communicate" by the commissioners' "expert" advisers and that the commissioners were acting on the information they had.
Chief of among the commissioners' advisers is former Canton fire chief and safety director in the Janet Creighton Canton mayoralty administration (2004 through 2007); namely, Joe Concatto.
Concatto was a surprise selection inasmuch as many of those staffing Stark's emergency services domain thought the likely choice was Nimishillen Township fire chief Richard Peterson.
Peterson had tied himself to former Nimishillen trustee Todd Bosley (turned county commissioner in the election of November 2006; defeating the-then incumbent commissioner Richard Regula) who, as a primary campaign issue, pledged to fix problems with the county's 9-1-1 dispatch as an outgrowth of incidents whereby errant dispatching jeopardized the ability of needy Stark Countians to get the most efficient in emergency services.
The opportunity came for Bosley to push a 9-1-1 dispatch rehab (described in a 2007/2008 commissioned analysis as being "broken") when in December, 2008 he and fellow commissioners Tom Harmon and Jane Vignos "imposed" a 1/2 cent county sales tax increase with half of the increase targeted to the 9-1-1 project.
The "imposed" nature of the increase fired up opposition in Stark and in the November election the opposers successfully repealed the increase. However, the increase tax collection had begun in April, 2009 and continued through March 31, 2010.
The SCPR believes that the "imposed" nature of the tax made it impossible for Bosley to be reelected as commissioner (or to any other Stark County-based office) and therefore he was not around - as commissioner - to guide the use of the several millions set aside for fixing 9-1-1 dispatching.
Before he left office, Bosley was a player in the process of determining whom was going to be the 9-1-1 rehab project manager.
Though it appears Bosley tried to have Peterson named 9-1-1 project manager (whom, the SCPR thinks, had - at the time, at least - more familiarity with Computer Aided Dispatch systems than Concatto); he failed.
Eventually, Bosley accepted Concatto, the apparent choice of the political power brokers among Stark's fire chiefs, and, of, perhaps, former Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez who long served as a Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) member and chairman of the Governance Committee on 9-1-1. Gonzalez worked tirelessly for some 20 years or more trying to centralize Stark's 9-1-1 call receiving and dispatch in order make it more efficient/effective.
To put Gonzalez's contribution into perspective as affecting the county's neighborhoods; every time a citizen needs emergency services and a benefited recipient wants to direct appreciation to a person, Gonzalez, the SCPR thinks, is the guy.
The SCPR thinks Gonzalez deserves more credit than any other Stark County official for getting the 9-1-1 system in its present vastly improved state.
Officially, SCOG selected Concatto in mid-March of 2009 to be the project manager.
There have been many twists and turns for Concatto (working very closely with Gonzalez) over the past five (5) years plus as he has endeavored to get some semblance of a centralized Stark County 9-1-1 dispatch system up and running.
Finally on July 30, 2014 the Stark County commissioners acted on Concatto's (and his CAD Project Team members) recommendation that nearly $2 million (when a six year maintenance plan is included) of the remaining $2.35 million that the commissioners have on hand be spent on a "new" Computer Aided Dispatch "software-based" system from New World Systems. (a top-tier CAD provider according one publication)
As indicated in Part 1 of this series, the SCPR suspects that in the CAD Project Team "standing on ceremony" (i.e. "form over function") on timeliness of bids/proposals, Stark's taxpayers may be paying nearly $2 million to a Michigan based company for what might be had from a 29 year old Ohio company for in the neighborhood of "a $1 million plus" lesser or more number.
Of course, The Report knew that a blog series such as this one would raise the hackles of the deciders of the matter (primarily Concatto, the CAD Project Team and, perhaps, Commissioner Tom Bernabei who is said by Concatto to be "next to him [Concatto) in knowledge of 9-1-1 dispatching) and is not surprised to receive emails on the publication of Part 1 on August 8th.
Unlike many in Stark County officialdom, The Report welcomes differences of opinions.
In one of the emails Concatto typed in CAPITAL LETTERS which for those of us familiar with the significance of same is like "shouting" at a person. Maybe that is not the case at all. Perhaps he inadvertently hit the "caps lock" key. In Part 3 of this series you will see the entire email; you - the reader - decide for yourself.
Of course, the SCPR could be off on a tangent on being suspicious, and, if such turns out to be the case, the likes of Concatto and other knowledgeables should be able to "clearly" show point-by-point why The Report's suspicions are ill-founded.
The Report's sources are the "unsuccessful" bidder's employee Tom Craven and an unnamed safety forces person (Source), who, of course, does not want to face recrimination if the name was known.
Before going through the SCPR's timeline, readers who want to get the most out of this series should read a 2012 magazine article entitled: Are CAD Systems Becoming Too Complicated? (Mike Scott and Randall D. Larson, authors)
Here is what the SCPR thinks is a poignant observation for readers to mull on (an extract from the article) in light of Stark County's proposal being 160 pages along:
TriTech’s Chris Maloney said such systems often are designed too broadly which detracts from the basic fundamentals of dispatch. “When procuring a new system, agencies try and make sure that any and all requirements are thrown into the RFP to make sure they don’t miss anything,” he said. This leads to “featuritis” – systems that can do everything poorly and not important things well.”
Yes, Concatto's group put out a 160 page specifications list in a Request for Quote.
Was this a case of Stark County overdoing it?
And, of course, by implication of the first, a second question is whether or not the commissioners did the best thing for Stark County taxpayers in light of the county's needs (e.g. a completely revamped 800 mhz radio system) and scarce finances in not exploring whether or not TAC Computer would have provided for those needs at a much lower cost?
SCPR Note: See TAC's proposal at the very end (i.e. the Appendix) of The Report's Part I blog.
What follows is a chronological timeline of conversations/correspondence that the SCPR has had on the matter and how The Report thinks the issue of "frugality with Stark County taxpayer money" plays out.
JULY 30, 2014
WHAT CAUSED THE SCPR TO QUESTION?
In making his presentation to the commissioners on July 30th, Concatto spent about 30 to 45 seconds in referring to the untimely bid of TAC Computers (TAC) of Bedford, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland).
Because of the brevity of Concatto's reference to TAC's proposal, it might be that Commissioners Creighton and Regula did not know that the TAC proposal was for much less money than the New World bid.
In fact, Commissioner Janet Creighton, after the meeting of the 30th, told The Report that she was not familiar with the TAC proposal (a copy of which the SCPR provided her). However, she was quick to jump on the fact that TAC's bid had not been timely submitted.
The Report has reason to believe that Commissioner Bernabei did know well before July 30th and therefore it is disappointing to the SCPR that he did not at the meeting of the 30th (as he is so prone to do in many of the presentations made to the commissioners) draw Concatto out on the TAC factor.
As readers of the SCPR know, The Report is well taken with Commissioner Bernabei as being a no nonsense, due diligence commissioner.
It is a sad day indeed for The Report, as is suspected, when it appears that Commissioner Bernabei has taken a pass on matter of critical importance to the county.
That's how much confidence that the SCPR has had in him.
AUGUST 4, 2014 (SCPR's "SOURCE")
The Report contacted a person referred to in this blog as being the "Source" and posed the question:
"What do you think of the commissioners' accepting the bid of New World Systems' proposal for a state-of-the-art countywide CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) at their July 30, 2014 meeting?"
- The commissioners did not purchase a "countywide" system and for PSAP's (public-safety answering point) other than the Sheriff's dispatch, the Canton Communications Center's dispatch and the Regional Emergency (RED) dispatch to connect, they likely will have to purchase a "software" patch (estimated at about $10,000 annually) to join in with the New World system
- SCPR notes/comments:
- This is a point that Director Concatto and the commissioners readily concede. Moreover, they are optimistic that in "build it and they will come" fashion (a la "A Field of Dreams), once Stark County political subdivisions (i.e. villages, cities, townships and boards of education) see the operation in action over a period of time and at the urging of county officials, they will "see the light" and over time merge to form an actual countywide system.
- Concatto and the commissioners have not publicly addressed the additional "patching" cost factor to the five outside the county system PSAPs.
- The system purchased is not fully integrated down to the police cruiser in the context the cruisers "mobile data points" and thereby having laptop computers and having access to the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS, the county's records management system) so as to have more or less "real time" information on the person the officer is dealing with on the scene,
- Comment: Isn't this latter point a factor of police officer safety?
- Raised questions about whether or not New World has had problems in implementing its system.
- Comment: The SCPR does not recall ever hearing in the discussion of the New World proposal anything about the New World system's reliability factor.
- It could be that New World is the very best available and, if so, Stark Countians through the commissioners should have affirmative user based testament(s) to that effect dug out by the CAD Project Team
- Notwithstanding the CAD Project Team, as reported [including a video of them saying so] by the SCPR, standing behind Concatto, most if not all Stark County fire and police chiefs oppose [according to the Source], the July 30th commissioners decision because of the ongoing projected costs of maintaining the system in years beyond the current maintenance agreement and because they preferred that the money be used for new 800 mhz radios, and
- TAC Computer's Tom Craven, being a technology geek, lacked the marketing sophistication of TAC's competitors
On the 6th, the SCPR spoke with TAC's Craven and summarized that conversation in an email to Concatto for his response.
Martin Olson, Aug 6 at 9:39 AM
To: Joseph Concatto
Spoke with Tom Craven of TAC yesterday [actually on the 4th] regarding your statement at last week's commissioners meeting that TAC was too late in submitting a proposal for Stark's CAD.
He denies that such is the case.
Says that the 9-1-1 project team has known about TAC for four years and the team has had a presentation made to it.
He claims that Stark is overpaying by at least $1 million with the New World bid.
He says that Canton already has TAC's up-to-date system and the PD does not want to change but that the CFD (which I believe you once headed) does.
I would like to hear the details about your side (the team's side) of the recommendation to the commissioners to buy into New World.
Craven says that he has sent you an e-mail detailing a proposal for CAD for Stark without the GIS factor. Please forward a copy of that e-mail and any other correspondence from TAC to you/the project team.
What is the GIS factor and how critical is it to a properly functioning system?
Stark County Political Report
Joseph Concatto, Aug 7 at 11:07 AM
Please see attached for my response to your e-mail.
SCPR Note: Interesting cc: list, no?
Here is my response to the e-mail sent to you by Tom Cravan [sic, actually name is spelled Craven] on August 6, 2014.
“Tom Cravan [sic] denies that TAC was too late in submitting a proposal for the Stark’s CAD.”
First, the proposal that TAC sent me on July 21, 2014 was a just that, an unsolicited proposal not a bid.
Let me begin by saying that the safety of the first responders in Stark County was always, and remains, our top priority.
The CAD Project Team, which you met at the Commissioner’s meeting, has been involved with this project since April of 2010. They include representatives from the Sheriff’s Dispatch Center, the Canton Communication Center and the RED Center and they have been involved in all aspects of this project.
This Team designed and issued a Request for Qualification for the purpose of contracting with a national consulting firm to help write the specification for a countywide CAD/Mobile System. RCC Consultants, Inc. was chosen as the consulting firm and Mr. Leo Birbilas was the lead consultant. Mr. Birbilas came to Stark County and met with the dispatch centers in Stark County, the Stark County Fire Chief’s Association, the Stark County Police Chief’s Association, a number of Fire Chiefs and Police Chiefs, County officials and the CAD Project Team. These meetings formed the background for the specifications for the CAD System.
On October 31, 2012 the County released a Request for Competitive Sealed Proposals for a Computer Aided Dispatching System and a Mobile Data Computer System. This proposal consisted of approximately 160 pages of specification for both of these Systems.
Thirteen vendors requested and received bid packages for this Proposal and this included TAC Computer. On November 19, 2012 we sent out an addendum to this Proposal to all thirteen vendors including TAC Computer.
Nine of the thirteen potential vendors submitted a bid for this project and the bids were opened on January 17, 2013. TAC Computer did not submit a bid. We eventually reduced the number of vendors to three. After having all three vendors demo their product we picked a final vendor which was New World Systems.
This was a very extensive project. We always had the safety of our first responders as our first priority with cost of the project our second priority.
I am not sure why TAC Computers did not submit a bid but the fact was they did not. It was important that all the vendors that submitted a bid could conform to our specifications. Whether or not TAC could or could not conform to our specifications is a question for TAC Computers. There last minute proposal will not be accepted by the County.
“Craven states that the 9-1-1 project team has known about TAC for four years and the team has had a presentation made to it.”
The CAD Project team has known about TAC but they were never given a demo of his system. Tom Craven did give a demo to the Canton Police and Fire Department and I was present at one of these demos around 2010.
“Craven claims that Stark is overpaying by at least $1 million with the New World bid.”
As stated above we had nine vendors who bid on this project and their bids ranged from$1,176,935.00 to $2,664,882.00. These bids were based on the specifications for the CAD System. TAC Computer did not submit a bid saving the County 1 million dollars.
“Craven states that Canton already has TAC’s up-to-date system and the PD does not want to change but that the CFP (which I believe you once headed) does.”
I assume the “you once headed” is referring to me and I am not sure why the reference.
I had no input into the Canton Fire Departments decisions regarding TAC. However I did reach out for a response from Canton and received the following:
Canton Fire Department did an evaluation of the TAC CAD system in 2012. They actually ran it as their CAD for about a week and the Fire Department found that the TAC software was not functioning very well with their Firehouse records management systems. Report times and run numbers were some of the issues. That was a problem for the Fire Department in reporting to state for NFIRS and EMS and they had to make manual corrections.
Canton discontinued using the TAC CAD and never felt a need to revisit it. The Canton Police Department and the Canton Fire Department still uses Enroute as their CAD provider but will move to the New World System.
Canton personnel did view the demo from New World and are very comfortable with the New World product and they believe this System will serve their needs well.
Martin you had a question regarding the importance of GIS mapping in a CAD system.
GIS mapping is vital to a properly functioning CAD system. Stark County’s GIS Department and their mapping system is one of the best in the state. GIS mapping will run within the same bandwidth as the new CAD System. It will include Pictometry and will be updated on a daily basis.
You can contact Brian Hall the director of the Stark County GIS Department for more detail regarding the importance of the GIS mapping system.
SCPR Note: The SCPR was way ahead of Concatto on this suggestion. The Report captured Hall and Stark Emergency Management deputy director Rich Weber after the commissioners' meeting of August 6th and put the question of GIS compatibility direct to Hall and Weber, to wit:
Continuing with Concatto's letter:
I hope this information will enlighten you on how this project came about and the extensive time and effort it took to pick the vendor that will provide Stark County with a Countywide CAD System.
So ends this Part 2 of the SCPR series on the question of whether or not "a communications failure" was a key factor in the concern of The Report and various Stark County fire and police officials that the commissioners may have overspent Stark County taxpayer money in agreeing on July 30, 2014 to pay New World Systems nearly $2 million for a new CAD system.
Within days, the SCPR will pick up this series with Part 3.
In Part 3, The Report will share with readers, in detail, the Craven's (for TAC) response to the various issues raised by Concatto and his CAD Project Team in recommending that the commissioners award the county's CAD business to New World without digging - it appears to the SCPR - into the details of the TAC proposal.
Moreover, the SCPR will share it its entirety, Concatto's point-by-point rebuttal to various parts of Part 1 of this series.
In concluding this Part 2 however, The Report does take the final paragraph of the Concatto letter referred to in the paragraph immediately above this one, to wit:
Martin, though I may not always agree with you, I respect your effort to get your opinions and documentations out to the public. I have always responded to your questions in a timely manner, however, I will not debate Tom Cravan [sic] nor your "person of considerable knowledge" on your blog.
An interesting statement, no?
Especially, the I will not debate language.
Well, Mr. Concatto can "rest at-ease." This series of blogs has never been about getting interested parties to debate.
What it is about about is Stark County citizens being fully informed about whether or not those paid by Stark County and Stark County political subdivision tax dollars have looked carefully and thoroughly at all options available to the best advantage of the Stark County taxpaying public, whether or not the proposals were timely submitted.
Taxpayers are likely interested in "Substance over Form," when it might mean saving $1 million plus.
It has taken Concatto and his close advisers over five (5) years to get to recommending to the commissioners on July 30th.
And that is all well and good.
So what was the big rush to "short-shrift" (what the SCPR is thinking) the TAC Computer proposal?
As persons who is paid with Stark County taxpayer dollars, Concatto, the commissioners and the CAD Project Team have an obligation to convince Stark County taxpayers that there are substantive reasons why they recommended/approved spending $1 million plus over what TAC's proposal called for.
In pushing for answers, the SCPR makes no apology.
These days, the only media place the Stark County public will get a thorough examination of the questions raised with the TAC Computer proposal is with The Stark County Political Report.
The Report compliments Concatto with being willing to respond to each and every question the SCPR has ever posed to him on his and the CAD Project Team's effort in coming to a recommendation on which company the commissioners should award the CAD contract to.
And that is how it should be.
To his credit and to Commissioner Tom Bernabei's credit, they do not take the route that a few politically cowardly Stark County politicians have taken vis-a-vis the SCPR.
The political cowards know they cannot handle The Report's questions so they avoid and they make snide, derogatory remarks about "the blogger" in their handpicked loyalty groups.
Agree or disagree with the SCPR, The Report publishes every word written and every camera interview done.
The Report thinks well of the commissioners and thinks well of Concatto and his CAD Project Team.
But thinking well of or, for that matter, ill of a public official or figure is not a SCPR consideration.
The Report's thing is to delve into what no other media in Stark County will.
In this vein, it is a fiduciary-esque public obligation of the commissioners, Concatto and the CAD Project team to satisfy the Stark County public that the recommendation and concomitant decision was in the overall best interests of Stark Countians.
If, on the other hand, there was indeed "a failure in communication" that caused the on-the-face-of-it TAC Computer money saving proposal to the tune of $1 million plus to get "short-circuited, then those same public officials should own up to it.
In the end, once this series is completed, Stark Countians will be equipped to make a determination for themselves as to whether or not they have been well served by those in whom they have placed their trust.