Friday, May 17, 2013



Normally, one does not like to be thought of as being a guinea pig.

But such might not be all that bad for Stark County officials charged with providing:
  • emergency medical services,
  • fire and
  • police services
to Stark County's residents.

Back in 2007/2008 the Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) commissioned a study on the condition on the county's emergency call receiving and dispatching services and the verdict was not good.

For a copy of the complete copy of the original GeoComm report, go to this LINK at the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) site.

For more background on the continuing effort (Jackson fiscal officer Randy Gonzalez has been working on fixing Stark's 9-1-1 system for the better part of 20 years or more), here is a LINK to a prior SCPR blog.

It had to be music to Gonzalez's ears to hear recently that there might be an opportunity for Stark County to become the first in Ohio to join the State of Ohio (MARCS - "Multi-Agency Radio Communications System" Computer Aided Dispatch [CAD] system.

The reason that the news might be "music to the ears" is that joining the state system might mean more dollars remaining of the $2.35 million (from revenues collected for 9-1-1 rebuild purposes from the Bosley, Harmon and Vignos December, 2008 imposed 0.5% sales tax [repealed overwhelming by Stark County taxpayers in November, 2009]) that the Stark County commissioners are holding to be used for upgrading the radios being used by Stark's EMS, fire and police forces to state-of-the-art 800 mhz, platform 7X, P25 radios.

Here is a video in which the possibility of Stark County (the very first non-state agency) is presented by Joe Concatto (a Republican and a former safety director for the Janet Creighton administration) at a SCOG Executive Committee meeting held at Canton City Hall this past Tuesday.

The SCPR likes hearing about what is being worked upon by Concatto, Gonzalez (Jackson Township fiscal officer, and also the manager of Stark County's CJIS) and others in terms of integrating Stark County emergency forces into the bigger picture of statewide communication capability.

Along with the CAD, there is the need for the county to keep pace with state-of-the-art technology in its radio communications system in and of itself.

Stark County emergency forces are working with radios, for the most part, that will become outdated in 2017 and it is estimated replacing them could cost as much as $10 million to $15 million.

Accordingly, in addition to studying the possibility of joining the MARCS CAD system, Stark County is very interested in looking at joining the State of Ohio MARCS Radio system.

Right now, it appears the latter is more likely than the former.  However, if the numbers can be worked out as being beneficial to Stark County, then Stark may well become the very first county (i.e "the guinea pig" experiment works) in all of Ohio to become part of the MARCS CAD.

It is commendable that county officials are interested in being "on the leading edge" of working out partnerships with other government entities.

Stark County at the urging of Stark County Treasurer Alex Zumbar (R-Alliance) is at the forefront of counties in Ohio who are in the process of putting together a "land bank" (officially, the Stark County Land Reutilization Corporation - SCLRC [a non-profit]) designed to remove abandoned houses, which are a huge blight on community aesthetics and serve as havens for crime, from Stark County neighborhoods.

A powerful motivating force for Stark County's first responders to come together within the county to reform and restructure emergency services is the draconian cutback in state funding of local government instituted by the Republican Kasich administration which is currently in charge in Columbus.

It is clear to the SCPR that whereas all state of Ohio funding of local government in its heyday cost some $600 million or so and the state currently is at about $2 billion or so in budget surplus, the real reason for the local government funding cutback is no longer - if it ever was - to be justified on a reported deficit in state finances.

The Report believes that the governor is using the purported financial crisis at the time he took office (January, 2011) to force elimination of duplicative local government services and nudge local governments into regional alliances and collaboration with state agencies in order to make government more efficient and effective.

While the dollars involved are important and taxpayers expect government at all levels to get the most bang for the taxpaying public's bucks, what we are seeing from Columbus is the implementation of Republican ideology of cutting government wherever possible and, to the extent that government cannot be cut, to make it as lean and mean financially as possible.

Out of this philosophy of government, or non-government, if you will, is born the Ohio Local Government Innovation Fund initiative and the like.

Sometimes rank and file citizens do not understand how political ideology affects their day-in, day-out lives.  Well, the SCPR is here to say that the Kasich administration is in the process of branding all of Ohio with its signature ideological stamp.  And it is apparent to yours truly that brand is making its mark in Stark County.

A quintessential part of the Kasich administration's unarticulated "government reduction and consolidation political philosophy at all levels of government plan" are pilot projects (i.e. let's use Stark County as a guinea pig) like the proposed integration of Stark into the MARCS CAD system.

And key Stark County elected officials, like local government officials across the state, are feeling the financial pressure and are wittingly or unwittingly responding with streamlining/consolidating moves which are consonant with the Kasich administration "Republican philosophy of government" objectives.

SCOG executive committee chairman Tom Bernabei (a Democrat) seems to be an effective coordinating force lead player in providing a structure in the context of the Stark County commissioners' meeting work sessions to prod the development of key information so that the commissioners are in a position to make a decision soon (probably within the next 60 days) as to which direction the county is going to go with its $2.35 million.

And the underlying impetus is the need to be efficient and effective.

While $2.35 million may seem to be a lot of money, it really is not in terms of all that needs to be accomplished in bringing Stark County emergency forces to state-of-the-art status.

Here is a video of a discussion that took place as the SCOG meeting that focused the Radio side of Stark getting its 9-1-1 dispatch system in order:

An interesting question that came up for discussion was whether or not Stark County signing up with the MARC Radio system is inevitable?

While the answer is clearly "no,"  it seems to be the thinking of many Stark County EMS, fire and police officials that there is a trend in that direction.


The SCPR believes it is more than a trend.  As argued above, The Report thinks that the political forces resident in Columbus largely constitutes the so called trend.

Local Democrats such as Canton's Mayor Healy, Canton Council president Allen Schulman, Jackson Township fiscal officer Randy Gonzalez (also Stark County Democratic Party chairman) have fired back at the governor and his austerity moves, but it appears that like them or not, they are more and more falling into line.

The termination of the Ohio Estate tax has, for instance, denied Jackson Township on average $1 million a year with which to operate and maintain its park system.  Only after the second try (the May, 2013 election) did Jackson voters approve a parks levy.  In the meantime, Jacksonians had to put up with a curtailed use and availability of their parks and also risked a deterioration of the capital facilities of the parks due the lack to financial resources with which to maintain the facilities.

Locally, Republican controlled North Canton government is already a part of MARCS system as an efficiency and effectiveness measure and Democratic controlled Summit County government is looking at whether or not MARCS will be efficient and effective for Summit Countians.

Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II (Democrat - Canton), Chairman Bernabei, and Sheriff George Maier (a Democrat) weighed in on the Stark County discussion at Tuesday's SCOG meeting, to wit:

It is apparent that Ohio's MARCS' managers are working hard with Stark County officials to make Stark County integration into the MARCS CAD and Radio systems a reality.

If integration happens, it will be a testament to the likes of Concatto, Gonzalez, Bernabei, and a core of other Stark County officials that they never lost their vision of putting together the very best of emergency force systems to the benefit of everyday Stark Countians.

Near the end of his presentation at Tuesday's session, Concatto once again reaffirms his belief (see video at the end of this blog) that Stark County can achieve a "one dispatch center" operation.

Undoubtedly, he and Randy Gonzalez have some tales to tell and some huge frustrations to share to any who are interested in hearing about the many peaks and valleys they have gone over and through in their quest to make Stark County one of the state's if not the nation's very best emergency response local government.

This is work that most Stark Countians do not witness.

But the product of their work especially if coupled with a Stark County integration into a statewide MARCS CAD and Radio system (even if, as a state/county "guinea pig" operation) will prove to be life saving to many Stark Countians.

Here is Concatto on video expressing his belief that a Stark County "one dispatch center" is, perhaps, once again on the county's horizon:

No comments: