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Liberty Township’s 911 system needs independent evaluation



Published: Thu, February 23, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

There are facts and there are opinions surrounding Liberty Township’s 911 emergency telephone system, which means that any decision pertaining to its future will be steeped in controversy.

In arguing for the transfer of emergency dispatching from Liberty to Howland Township, Administrator Patrick J. Ungaro and the trustees point out that the system is a drain on the treasury. The 1.25-mill 911 levy, which was approved by the voters in March 2008, generates $283,000 a year, but the dispatch center’s operating cost is $302,963.

Board of trustees Chairman Stan Nudell believes the township could save about $200,000 if dispatching were transferred to Howland.

But opponents of change, led by the Liberty Fraternal Order of Police, warn of dire consequences.

“By virtue of the trustees’ refusal, to date, to place a renewal [levy] on the ballot … they have delivered a virtual death sentence to our community’s first line of defense,” FOP President Robert Altier said in a recent press release.

As both sides brace for what could be a pitched battle, the need for an independent evaluation of the system and its future is clear.

But how would the financially challenged township pay for it?

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is beginning his second year in office, has made government innovation a priority. In developing the state’s biennium budget last year, the Republican governor and the Republican controlled general assembly slashed funding across the board in order to eliminate a projected $8 billion shortfall. The Local Government Fund, which has become the lifeblood of counties, cities, townships and villages, took a major hit.

However, in order to ease the pain, Kasich and the legislature created a $40 million fund to help communities find ways of reducing their operating costs.

For instance, the governor has talked about communities banding together to purchase goods and services, and has touted consolidation of government operations.

Given that the residents of Liberty Township are divided on the issue of the 911 dispatching center transfer, an independent review is warranted. Ungaro and the trustees should ask the state for a grant from the $40 million set side to hire a firm to conduct it.

In addition to addressing the issues of cost and the “death sentence” warning from the FOP, the study should also seek to answer the following question: Will the renewal of the 911 levy at its current rate generate enough money to keep the system going?

Time to explore

Trustees have until August to decide whether to place the levy on the November general election, which will give them time to fully explore all aspects of the 911 system.

Nudell has already raised the possibility of a 1.5-mill levy being placed on the ballot to replace the 1.25 mills because of the township’s financial condition.

In 2008, Liberty, Hubbard, Niles, Newton Falls and Girard filed a lawsuit to void a plan enacted by the Trumbull County 911 Planning Commission that called for the county’s operation on Howland-Wilson Road in Howland to serve as the primary 911 call-answering point for the county, with Warren and Niles as backups.

Judge John M. Stuard of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court ruled that the committee’s plan was lawful.

The plan did not seek the elimination of dispatching operations in Liberty, Hubbard, Newton Falls and Girard, but did require that funding for upgrades to dispatching equipment would be taken away from them and given to the county, Warren and Niles.

The county system is working well and can accommodate additional communities.

The dispatchers in Liberty would be moved to Howland.

An independent review of the system is warranted — with the state picking up the tab.


Comments

1repeaters(223 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Are you nuts? You can't keep pandering to every issue involving tax dollars and/or unions. You are saying that EVERY community that either has a regional or county dispatch center is virtually handing their residents a 'death sentence'? Did you talk to any of these call center directors or employees or citizens they serve....bet not. So Liberty needs to take money from the state for an independent study? What happened to elected officials making financial and safety decisions based on their study? If this merger was done 5 years ago when the cost would have been as low as 80,000, how much money would have the township have saved over the years Vindy? Did the lady that died on her 'front porch' received a 'death sentence' .....maybe a regional dispatcher would have FORCED the issue and she might be alive today. Why didn't you require Austintown and Boardman to do a study prior to spending over 1,000,000 on new equipment for their radio rooms? They now have levies on the ballot where they could have saved money going to the county. Your now also known as the 'PANDERCATOR' and you STILL have no shame.

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2repeaters(223 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Hey PANDERCATOR, the other day the telephone lines to LPD were down which includes the 911 center. To get 911 service, you had to call Girard's 'TEN DIGIT' number. Do you think their dispatchers know all the streets in Liberty? Did the LPD give Girard a 'pass' for handing out 'death sentences'?

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3MRWIII(3 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Now they want to spend more money to show them that they are making a mistake? The voters could tell them that when we vote for this. Please trustees, and Ungaro who gets paid too much, listen to us,, give us a chance to decide again. Why show columbus how screwed up you are, and you wont let us decide? You are making yourselves look like a bunch of morons,,,,

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