Liberty residents express concerns about 911 transfer
By Sean Barron
Transferring the township’s 911 emergency dispatching to the Trumbull County 911 center in Howland will save Liberty Township money, but how will such a move affect response to potentially life-threatening situations in the area?
The impact could be devastating, several residents told trustees during their meeting Monday. One such resident was a Sodom-Hutchings Road man who told the packed room that after having suffered a heart attack last November, a call to the local 911 center quickly brought an ambulance and likely saved his life.
Also in favor of keeping the emergency dispatch center in the township’s administration building on Church Hill Road is state Sen. Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, who called the center “absolutely necessary.” A quick response to her grandmother’s collapse several years ago was probably life-saving, Cafaro said.
Another reason the dispatch center needs to stay put is because Liberty borders Youngstown, which is the origin of much of the township’s crime, noted Ray Buhala, who’s served seven years in the Liberty Police Department. Also, having emergency 911 services in the township will cut down on response time, he continued.
In addition, the facility, which has four full-time dispatchers, is being funded by money from a five-year, 1.25-mill 911 levy that passed in March 2008, Buhala explained.
The levy is bringing in $283,000 annually to the township, but the center’s 2011 operating cost was $302,963, according to township records.
Most residents who spoke at the session called on trustees to place the issue on the November general-election ballot.
Some people, however, spoke in favor of moving the center, including a man who’s lived in Liberty 57 years. He predicted such a change would save the township about $200,000.
He, along with a few others, said that it doesn’t matter where a call originates from, as long as responders reach those in emergencies in a timely fashion.
Trustees have been in negotiations with Trumbull County to move the 911 emergency dispatch facility to the county 911 center, but took no action on the matter during the meeting. They have until August to make a decision, noted Stan Nudell, chairman of the trustees.
The issue can be on the November ballot, but that likely will mean asking voters to increase the millage to perhaps 1.5 mills because of the township’s financial situation, Nudell said.