SEE ALSO: Mild winter yields big savings in Mahoning County
By Peter H. Milliken
The Mahoning County commissioners have approved a resolution establishing a regional council of governments for consolidation of 911 emergency dispatching operations of the county with those of Austintown and Boardman townships.
Under the agreement, also approved Monday by Boardman Township trustees, the county will close its 911 answering point in the county administration building in downtown Youngstown, and Austintown and Boardman will absorb up to six county dispatchers each into their dispatching centers.
The county now has 12 emergency dispatchers, six of whom will go to Boardman, five to Austintown and one to a civilian job in the sheriff’s office, Sheriff Jerry Greene said.
The move will reduce from nine to eight the number of 911 answering points in the county.
The transition is happening in part because the state will fund only three 911 answering points per county beginning in 2018 out of cellular phone 911 fees.
On Thursday, commissioners also enacted a related resolution to buy law-enforcement communications equipment through the state purchasing program and enter into a 10-year communication-system lease agreement with Motorola Solutions Inc.
The commissioners had earlier approved a $299,943 grant application for federal monies for communications equipment, including portable radios to be issued to sheriff’s deputies, which would make the sheriff’s radio system compatible with that of Austintown and Boardman police.
The county and Boardman and Austintown will finance the district’s creation and operation, and they’ll share equally in the costs of all improvements and expansions.
The cost of the merger, estimated at between $2.4 million and $2.7 million, is to be paid off in 10 years under a lease-purchase agreement for equipment, the sheriff said.
Once the county’s 911 center closes, the sheriff said he can assign a captain, who now supervises 911 full-time, to other tasks.
The transition will be gradual, said Austintown Police Chief Robert Gavalier, with his dispatch center likely initially adding Jackson Township, and Boardman likely initially adding Poland.
The Austintown and Boardman centers would then gradually add more jurisdictions during the 12- to 18-month transition, he said.
“We’re not going to try to do this fast track. We’re dealing with 911, with people’s lives, so we want to make sure we do it right,” Gavalier said.
Boardman and Austintown dispatching centers will benefit from the addition of more dispatchers to ensure sufficient staffing for a major incident, said Mike Dockry, Austintown Township administrator.
The sheriff said he saw no need for public hearings before adoption of the merger.
“Public hearings on it? What are we going to talk about?” the sheriff asked.
“This was a no-brainer for all three governments for me,” he added.
“We wanted to keep it quiet because rumors start and could derail something that we know is a home run for this community,” he added.
“There was no negative feedback, none whatsoever,” said county Commissioner David Ditzler.
“We will all rise to the occasion and do the job that we are required to do and that we want to do,” said Boardman Dispatcher Christy Anderson.
However, she added that the dispatchers will face a demanding learning experience as they familiarize themselves with the additional communities they will serve under the new arrangement.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but I think we’re ready for it,” she concluded.