YOUNGSTOWN Talks to lead to 911 call contract

Guards have taken numerous sharp objects from visitors at city hall's doors.
YOUNGSTOWN -- City council's safety committee has authorized Fire Chief John O'Neill to enter into negotiations to reach a performance-based contract with Rural Metro to be the sole provider for ambulance service in response to 911 calls.
O'Neill said he favors a sole-provider contract because it demands accountability and builds working relationships between fire and ambulance crews at fires, accidents and rescue scenes.
He said he prefers Rural Metro because it has a prestigious national certification and because it is centrally located in the city's Uptown area. O'Neill's recommendation follows an evaluation of Rural Metro and the Ellsworth Township-based Pellin Ambulance Service by a group of city officials.
"We're not reinventing the wheel, and we're not creating the wheel. We're just taking an idea that has been successful in other communities -- always striving to improve the quality of the service," Mayor George McKelvey said Tuesday.
Here's the system: Currently, the city's 911 center calls Rural Metro and Pellin on alternating days, and both companies submitted proposals for sole-provider contracts.
The committee also asked the administration for further recommendations as to how St. Moritz security guards should handle people found to be carrying sharp objects when they pass through the metal detectors at city hall entrances.
Joe Bonacci, St. Moritz Security Services director and a former city police officer, brought to the meeting a box full of knives, linoleum cutters and screwdrivers the guards had taken in recent weeks from people entering city hall, and asked for clarification of the city's policy. "Stuff like this doesn't belong in city hall," he said.
"We don't want people coming to court with utility knives and screwdrivers. If you're a carpenter and you've got business here, you should let someone know before you get here," said councilman Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, committee chairman.
Bonacci said some city officials had asked the guards to return the items to visitors, and he expressed concern whether his company would encounter legal liability if the guards returned the sharp objects to people who might later commit crimes with them.
Although the guards can and do detain those found to be carrying guns for arrest by city police and for prosecution, Police Chief Richard Lewis said he knew of no legal authority to confiscate sharp objects unless an intent to use the object as a weapon is shown.
Law Director Robert Bush advised that the best policy might be simply not to admit anyone carrying a sharp object to city hall and to allow that person to take the sharp object back to his car and re-enter the building without it.
Firing range: The committee authorized negotiations between the city and the state toward establishing on state-owned land adjacent to The Ohio State Penitentiary an outdoor firing range for use by city police and prison guards.
Lt. Robin Lees said the city's 220 police officers need their own firing range because they will need extensive practice as they switch from 9 millimeter to .40-caliber handguns. City officers now use police department ranges in other communities.

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