Sunday, January 4, 2009


The "Alliance wrinkle" is obviously something that 9-1-1 Reform Czar (also Jackson Township fiscal officer) Randy Gonzales had not factored in when formulating the re-structuring of Stark County's 9-1-1.

One of the virtues of a less centralized approach is that when someone makes a move to change what already exists, the changer will be getting questions.

In the case of 9-1-1, those on the "hot seat" are Stark County Council on Governments (SCOG) "governing committee chair" Randy Gonzales. For purposes of cutting to the chase, the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) will refer to Gonzales as the "911 Reform Czar."

The Alliance Review published a very good report (byline Laurie Huffman) on the reaction of Alliance 9-1-1 connected officials to the imposition of the 1/4% sales/use tax increase last Tuesday by county commissioners which means that it is
full-speed ahead to redo Stark County's 9-1-1.

The Report is astonished to learn from The Review's piece what SCOG officials and county commissioners did not know and therefore did not factor into the plan to refashion 9-1-1 the relative unpreparedness (in terms of medical trainng) of Stark's dipatchers compared to those of Alliance.

The Report commends Alliance Services Director John Blaser and his public safety officials for bringing several matters to light that SCOG will - now - factor into the new countywide 9-1-1.

To repeat, it is eyeopening to learn that neither Commissioner Harmon nor Vignos knew that Alliance was significantly ahead of the county in terms of the quality of dispatcher training. How can you send a Tom Harmon to Alliance to convince them to get on the 9-1-1 Stark County Express when he doesn't know what Alliance already has?

The Report has had a conversation some time ago with Director Tim Werstler of Stark County 9-1-1 Central Dispatch in which he impliedly (in The Report's opinion) admitted that his dispatchers are not trained to the level of the Alliance group. Nimishillen chief Rich Petersen confirmed Stark's unpreparedness with The Report. Again, how could Harmon not know?

The Review's report indicates that Alliance and Minerva will not be a part of the countywide, at least until Stark County phases into a highly trained one-dispatch-center modality.

One has to wonder if Alliance can hold out several years until the one-dispatch-center becomes a reality. Alliance currently spends about $500,000 a year on dispatch services. In difficult economic times like these, Alliance clearly could use the money elsewhere when a viable alternative exists. Apparently, Alliance believes the proposed alternative would be a step-down for its citizens as it is presently constituted and would not be cured when the reduction to four centers occurs.

The Report believes that Gonzales in a tad on the "disingenuous" side as evidenced in the following language attributed to him in The Review's piece:
We are not asking Alliance to close their (dispatch) facility. We are asking them to move it, essentially. The move would be paid for, and it would free up square footage at City Hall for them, which I understand they need. They would have a new facility with new equipment and their same dispatchers could take the Alliance calls at a new location."
Undoubtedly, before biting, the Alliance folks would have to have satisfied themselves that Alliance residents would not be getting lesser service before they throw-in with the countywide operation.

Another concern raised before by Alliance officials, Louisville Councilman Guy Guidone and others is a telling one.

What if Michael Mouse (former councilman from Canal Fulton) is successful in getting the 1/4% sales/use tax repealed?

Where does that leave the 9-1-1 merger process in financial terms?

Will the commissioners need to re-impose the tax sixty days after a successful repeal (assuming that it gets on the November, 2009 ballot)?

While The Report is fully for reconfiguring Stark County's 9-1-1 and has been laudatory of Commissioner Todd Bosley's bold initiative, Alliance officials and other Stark Counltians in raising questions on the details are, indeed, doing a public service!


Anonymous said...

Medical training was and is part of the discussion of 911. This subject is nothing new to those that have been involved from the beginning of all of this. Giving all dispatchers medical training has been part of the plan all along!

Anonymous said...

You're "astonished"? Oh my, I will maintain that you will be even more astonished with the 9-1-1 system revamping as time goes on. There was a huge, politically motivated, rush to put the sales tax in place and their revamping plan is very suspect and incomplete as well. Watch for major cost over runs, ineffectiveness, and blatant mismanagement of this system.

Anonymous said...

The Alliance news is actually a very positive discovery. It can benefit everyone concerned, except perhaps those dispatchers who are not sufficiently trained or have no intention of becoming trained within the period before these new hirings will occur. It should factor favorably in this central dispatching process under one condition of course. That condition is that those responsible for hiring these new 911 central dispatchers handle the hiring process as most mergers and acquisitions would be handled. That is make it mandatory that all dispatchers submit to an application/resume/interview process for these newly created dispatching positions. If medical qualifications are as important as everyone is saying here then why would we expect anything less of these new dispatchers? Just make sure they are medically qualified as the current Alliance dispatchers are. This should allow the Alliance dispatchers to almost instantly qualify for these new positions, right? I think it is too presumptuous for us to say that this one issue is enough to scuttle the concept of a successful implementation of 911 central dispatching. However, it is an issue that needs to be addressed promptly and directly.

Anonymous said...

Watch out, as well, for who they put in place to manage the building, transfer, and training of the new centers. With the grant to pay for the salary and other costs, the administrators of this county have a habit of using "free" money to put either brothers/sisters, friends, aunts/uncles, fathers/mothers, etc. to mis-manage these offices. Who will it be?!

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for the 911 Administrators to prove that we need to fix the system. I think Bosley is just trying to fix his(CenCom) dispatching center, because it is still having issues stemming from the cost over-runs, mis-management, and contractor issues during construction. Bosley says the trustees, which he was one at the time, took the contractors to court for those issues, but didn't the trustees hire them in the first place? Didn't they have to "vet" the contractors? Several firefighters I know work for departments who have CenCom and they complain about the dispatchers and the system constantly. Bosley ran on this for two years, but it has taken him two more years to bring it up. What's the real motive to "solving" the supposed 911 problem?

Anonymous said...

Who are the 911 administrators? Oh, that would be the Commissioners.... How do you vet a contractor? Are you kidding me? Have you called 911 lately or have you heard of the GeoCom report? This sounds like a personal issue to me. Go Bosley!