Tuesday, July 2, 2013




On February 26th of this year, a special task force (CAD Project Team [CAD-PT]) appeared before the Stark County commissioners in one of their work sessions (set up on Mondays and Tuesdays of most weeks to review the operations of Stark County government) to summarize where the Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) Governing Board is in terms of creating a countywide 9-1-1 centralized dispatch.

Here is a LINK to a prior SCPR blog which details the February meeting as well as the overall background of Stark's 9-1-1 infrastructure and history.

Yesterday, the CAD-PT was back before commissioners.

Spokesman Joe Concatto (spokesperson for the group who also serves as the part-time project manager for the SCOG countywide 9-1-1) had a stunning request as far as the SCPR is concerned.


Yes, in the sense that the SCPR thinks the team was ill-prepared to be asking the commissioners for anything.

The group wanted a commitment from the commissioners that the county is going to move forward with a county CAD system before the two top bidders on system bid out would be asked to come to Stark County to demo their respective systems.

At stake is how the commissioners are going to spend some $2.35 million of taxpayer money (remaining from what they collected from a now repealed (November, 2009) 2008 commissioner (Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) "imposed" sales tax they are holding for financing some aspect of Stark County emergency services.

The commissioners' options appear to yours truly to be:
  • purchase a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system for Stark County to be run from the Stark County Sheriff's dispatch center and the Canton Communications Center (redundant in case one becomes inoperable),
  • buy 800 mhz radios (favored by the Stark County Police Chiefs Association) so that all of Stark's emergency forces (police, fire and EMA personnel) have state-of-the-art radios, 
  • purchase a Stark County CAD at about $1.5 million and use the remaining money to match 70/30 or 50/50 with the political subdivisions on the radios and thereby achieve both the centralized dispatch and upgraded radios objective, or 
  • apply the money so as to fuse with a state of Ohio MARCS CAD and Radio system in about year,
The Report's take on the group's presentation is that there was "no way, Jose" that the commissioners could responsibly make a commitment based on what they heard yesterday from the CAD-PT.

What did they hear?

They heard:
  • build it (centralized dispatch) and they (the eight or so independent dispatch centers that remain in addition to the sheriff's dispatch operation and Canton's dispatch operation) will come,
  • CenCom (Nimishillen's operation will never join up with a centralized countywide system) thereby making a 100% countywide system impossible to achieve leaving the county with a start of about 75% countywide coverage (note:  75% equals the sheriff's operation, Canton's operation and the RED Center),
  • that the RED (Regional Emergency Dispatch) Center does not need a updated CAD whereas the sheriff's department will need one soon and which Canton desperately needs now,
    • Because of the sheriff's and Canton's need, there presently exists a short window within which to get centralized dispatch done,
  • a fair amount of conjecture as to what setting up a Sheriff/Canton Communications Center redundant CAD operation (i.e. one system in two buildings) would actually cost, and
  • that a 75% countywide system will need to build up capital account for future financial needs of such a system but precious little discussion of how to generate revenue for such an account, 
  • that the state's system will not be available for another year and its numbers keep changing (downward so far) as to what it will cost for Stark County to join,
  • that centralized dispatch (even if only 75% of the county participates) will save Stark's political subdivisions money over the longer run, and
  • the eight dispatch centers are not taking in direct calls from land line calls and therefore are not operating at full efficiency.
What the commissioners heard was not enough for them to  grant the CAD-PT the commitment they wanted.

The SCPR applauds the commissioners (through President Tom Bernabei) for in effect sending the CAD-PR back to the drawing board.

Going back to the drawing board does not in this instance mean starting from scratch.

But it does mean touching base with all the Stark County potential participants in countywide system and making sure they are overwhelmingly on board.

Moreover, it means sharpening the financial calculation pencil and coming up with a plan that overwhelmingly convinces the commissioners that the CAD-PT has devised a plan that has a high, high probability of working effectively and efficiently.

The commissioners have to be convinced that buying a county CAD system is in the best interests of the Stark County taxpayers before making the commitment asked for yesterday.

While the SCPR is impressed with the work that task force members Concatto and Randy Gonzalez have done on centralized dispatch going back years (some 20 years in Gonzalez's case), The Report is increasingly concerned that they and their fellow group members may now be in a "rush to judgment" mode that putting the $2.35 million in in a county CAD is the way to go.

Concatto and Gonzalez said they were more convinced now than they were six months ago that the county buying its own CAD was gaining more acceptance among Stark emergency service providers and that given the sheriff's and Canton's dire need (Gonzalez's words) for updated CADs presents a "window of opportunity" that may evaporate if commissioners do not act soon.

To their credit, the commissioners in light of what the SCPR thinks was a CAD-PT substantially razor thin (or, perhaps deficient) justification for acting now resisted the entreaty.

At Commissioner Bernbei's direction, the task force is to come back to a commissioners' work session in several weeks with refined numbers and a better grasp as to what Stark's emergency forces will support.

Fire, police and EMS personnel throughout Stark County should keep close watch in the interplay between the commissioners and the CAD-PT (also SCOG Governance Board) on the disposition of the $2.35 million that the commissioners have at their disposal.

It is critically important that going back to the drawing board produces a nearly sure fire plan.

It is hard to see how a 75% countywide, centralized dispatch plan (with the hope that others will eventually join) can be convincing to the commissioners.

The money comes from "all" Stark County taxpayers; not just 3/4ths of them.

Yours truly did talk to Dean McKimm after the meeting and he said that if commissioners did not buy a CAD, disaster was not imminent at the Canton Communicatons Center.

Also, Concatto et al did not give any evidence for the building of support among Stark's political subdivisions over the past six months or so.

Rather they acknowledged the SCPCA radio purchase preference, failed efforts to get Perry Township and North Canton on board.

The Report thinks it is fair to say that Director Mark Busto (RED Center director) was noncommittal as to whether or not it would join a centralized countywide effort.  When asked by the commissioners, he said that the decision was up to his board.

So it is a mystery to the SCPR as to where the support is coming from.  

When CAP-PT comes in again, if the group's plan is not clearly convincing, then the commissioners need to back off and do nothing for now.

They have the options of waiting for the state of Ohio to provide definite numbers as to the cost of joining its MARCS systems, or, alternatively, follow the recommendation of the Stark County Police Chiefs Association (SCPCA) and spend the money on upgrading Stark political subdivisions' 800 mhz radio system to "state-of-the-art."

The SCPR believes that a case exists that it would be irresponsible to Stark's taxpayers for the commissioners to do anything with the money they hold (county CAD or applying it to 800 mhz radios) until the state MARCS CAD and Radio systems become a known factor in terms of cost and whether or not they can meet Stark's emergency services (fire, police and EMS) needs better than a county run system.

If it takes a year or the better part of a year, so be it.

We should not forget that even the advocates for a county CAD acknowledge that the MARCS system is the wave of the future.

Commissioners met with the CAD-PT members for almost an hour yesterday.

Here is the video of the entire meeting for your viewing pleasure.

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