Thursday, March 31, 2016
By Peter H. Milliken
Mahoning County and Austintown and Boardman townships are jointly applying for a $299,943 grant that would facilitate radio communication between county sheriff’s deputies and Austintown and Boardman police and consolidation of 911 emergency dispatching centers.
That grant application is part of a larger plan approved Monday by the Boardman Township trustees, which includes creation of a new regional council of governments consisting of the county and the two townships to achieve the consolidation.
The Mahoning County commissioners have resolutions approving the plan on the agenda for their 10 a.m. meeting today in the county courthouse basement.
“The reason for this grant application is to carry on our efforts to explore regionalization” of 911 answering points, explained Maj. William Cappabianca of the county sheriff’s office.
“What we would be purchasing with the $300,000 would be equipment that is communications oriented,” such as law enforcement radios, Cappabianca said.
The new communications equipment, including portable radios, would make the sheriff’s department radio system compatible with the one used by Austintown and Boardman police, he said.
The grant, which would consist of federal funds, would require no local matching funds.
Boardman Police Chief Jack Nichols explained that the consolidation move is being driven in part by a state policy.
Beginning in 2018, the cellular phone 911 fees it collects won’t go to more than three 911 answering points per county (four answering points in several counties with large cities).
“It’s the first baby step we have to take to kind of make some sense of all of this,” in terms of 911 consolidation, Nichols said of the new agreement between the county and the townships.
County officials should learn in June whether this grant will actually be awarded, he added.
DISPATCHERS WOULD MOVE
The grant would help pay for a consolidation of 911 emergency dispatching centers, under which the county’s dispatching center would close, and the county’s dispatchers would move to the Boardman and Austintown dispatching centers, Cappabianca said.
No date has yet been set for the closing of the county’s 911 dispatching center in the county administration building in downtown Youngstown, Cappabianca said.
“It was a longtime coming, some regional collaboration with other areas of Mahoning County, which is always good for us,” said Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.
She made her remarks when the commissioners unanimously voted recently to make the application to the local government safety capital grant program administered by the Ohio Development Services Agency.
The transferring county dispatchers will become township employees and their union representation will switch from the Fraternal Order of Police to the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Nichols explained.
“Nobody here currently has guaranteed job security,” Nichols said of his department. “Be a good employee, and that’s your job security.”
The operation of the county’s 911 dispatching center and the appointment of its dispatchers is overseen by the county sheriff’s office. That center, which dispatches sheriff’s deputies, is one of nine 911 answering points in Mahoning County, the other eight being located at, and supervised by, various local police departments.
Besides the answering points of the county, Boardman and Austintown, the other answering centers are run by Youngstown, Campbell, Struthers, Canfield, Sebring and Beaver Township.
When the commissioners transferred the county’s 911 center operation from their command to the sheriff’s command at the end of 2014, Sheriff Jerry Greene said he favored eventual consolidation of all of the county’s 911 answering points into a single answering point with one backup location, if it would be cost-effective.
COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS
The consolidation of emergency dispatching for the county and for Austintown and Boardman is to occur under a newly created regional council of governments, known as the Austintown-Boardman-Mahoning County Joint Communications District.
The joint communications agreement, taking effect today, is “for the purpose of collaborating, coordinating, and consolidating public resources for cost efficiency and the avoidance of redundant systems,” the agreement says.
The district will be governed by a three-member board of directors, with one member each to be appointed by the county commissioners and Austintown and Boardman. The board must have regular meetings in each quarter of each fiscal year.
The Boardman trustees approved Monday the resolutions establishing the COG and its operating agreement.
The district’s creation and operation are to be financed by the members’ general and other funds, with an intended in-service date for the new dispatching arrangement being July 1, according to the operating agreement.
“The cost of all improvements and expansions shall be shared equally by the district members,” the agreement says.
Township employees at each dispatching location will remain township employees.
Austintown and Boardman will each accept up to six county dispatchers, integrate them into their labor forces and give them health care coverage.
who will dispatch whom
The townships will each dispatch for their own townships and for jurisdictions previously served by the sheriff.
Austintown will dispatch for itself and for Berlin, Canfield, Ellsworth, Milton, Green and Jackson townships and for the villages of Beloit and Craig Beach.
Boardman will dispatch for itself, and for Coitsville, Goshen and Poland townships; the villages of Lowellville, New Middletown, Poland and Washingtonville; and for the county coroner, dog warden and emergency management agency.
The COG directors must appoint a fire advisory committee that will meet quarterly and consist of the acting Austintown and Boardman fire chiefs and one representative each of the county Fire Chiefs’ Association Communications Subcommittee and of the county sheriff’s office.