TRUMBULL COUNTY 911 Report outlines center's failings

The report centered on staffing, priority of calls and funding mechanisms.
WARREN -- Inefficiencies at the Trumbull County 911 Center in Howland are detailed in a consultant's report delivered to county commissioners just one week before they fired the center's director.
Tim Gladis was fired Wednesday after eight years as 911 chief. Commissioners and Gladis have declined to comment in detail about the move.
The 43-page analysis by RCC Consultants Inc. lists shortcomings including:
U"Staffing does not need to be at an even level across all shifts. This practice has been long-standing and was never really examined in the face of either data indicating the workload variation shifts or the actual experience of levels of activity. ... Staffing is currently inadequate for the busy part of the day [afternoons], a situation that has led to recent concerns over service quality and response ... "
UTrumbull 911 "should take action with Sprint to set up 10-digit lines into two discrete trunk groups," one for wireless 911 calls transferred from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and one for all other administrative calls. Wireless 911 calls can then receive the same priority treatment as 911 calls. "By providing a lesser level of service for routine calls, pressures to increase staff will be eased."
UA week ago Gladis suggested during RCC's presentation to commissioners that the county pay for all of 911 to make it easier to retain participating communities, and to convince others to join. The ex-director was told by Commissioner Paul Heltzel to forget about that because the county is looking to hold down general fund expenses.
Outside assistance
Finding areas for improving the county's 911 system was a goal set by commissioners and representatives of the townships, cities and villages served. They started meeting after members of the Trumbull County Townships Association gave commissioners money to avoid March layoffs of dispatchers.
The townships paid up front what they owe for the year, instead of in monthly installments. Commissioners then suggested hiring a consultant.
"At that point, there was some suggestion that the center wasn't running as efficiently as it could," said Mark Finamore, a lawyer, a Vienna Township trustee and a representative of the Trumbull County Townships Association.
Part of this was caused by generally flawed comparisons with Liberty, Girard, Newton Falls, Warren Township, Niles, Hubbard and Lordstown, which maintain their own dispatching operations. There was frustration over the difficulty in comparing systems, Finamore said, including comparisons to Warren -- the county's backup provider.
Time was of the essence as funding will run short this fall, Finamore noted. RCC was chosen, in part, because it could complete the analysis in a tight time frame.
The analysis did not recommend removing the director, and Finamore said he was surprised by Gladis' ouster.
"When we were actually in the [committee] hearings, I didn't perceive any strong tensions between the commissioners and Gladis at that time. It was more of a fact-finding," Finamore said. "Tim always explained to them that it was a fairly complicated thing. There was some frustration, but I never interpreted it to be some obstruction kind of thing."
Filling the void
Finamore said he is not worried about a vacuum's being created at the 911 Center now that Gladis is gone. He noted that Gladis did a "very good job" of putting the organization together, and that it probably can run on its own temporarily. Commissioners have said they will look to name an interim director.
Of more concern to Finamore is the impact the firing will have on plans to revamp the 911 funding mechanism and bring on more communities -- also recommended by RCC.
Overhauling that formula, the report says, could involve a two-tiered payment per township of 50 percent based on usage and 50 percent based on population; or a one-time fixed upward adjustment of the local governments' share; or -- as Gladis noted -- the county picking up the entire cost through a sales tax or some sort of assessment on residents.
"I'm hoping that the public perception of that [firing] isn't that they're feeling there's some loss of credibility," Finamore said. "I'm certainly hoping we would not lose some of the trust [among the local participants] this committee had to try and resolve this problem."

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