Ms. Bayley asks why nothing has been addressed over the last several years and that is incorrect. The previous EMA director was responsible for both EMA and 9-1-1, the ever- changing technology of 9-1-1 demands a full-time position and it was unfair to expect him to handle both jobs. He did the best he could in the situation and always informed every one of the upcoming changes. He dealt with the same funding issues I am dealing with as the state has not increased the wireless surcharge fee. The talk of a levy has been discussed for the last 5+ years and was continually passed over because no one wants to raise taxes.
Obviously, increasing 9-1- 1 cellular fees would be the fairest option as it would put the burden on the actual wireless callers and would be an equal distribution. The state lawmakers don’t agree, we are continuing to lobby for that change. They briefly thought of increasing it to 50 cents per device but they were going to keep the additional 25 cents for the state to create their Esinet Core Services for Next Generation 9-1-1. While looking into funding streams we discovered Huron County is currently maxed out on their sales tax so that is not a viable option.
We have looked at grant funding and the recent $4.3 million that the state has released for approved Next Generation 9-1-1 projects. What the fine print doesn’t tell you is the $4.3 million is for the entire state, eighty-eight counties who are all in the same boat with little to no funding. In addition to competing with eighty-eight other counties, each county is limited to applying for $250,000, this is only a one-time grant and subject to actually being approved. If you are awarded the grant you must have the funds to cover the entire amount of the project upfront and then you will be reimbursed 60 percent of the total on the back end. While I appreciate the state releasing funds, we do not have the money to cover anything more than $50,000 at this time.
So, while it sounds appealing and makes headlines, it negatively impacts us here in Huron County, because we will not see much of anything from this grant opportunity. As for consolidated services, Huron County participated in an analysis and strategic plan completed by MCM Consulting Group, that report was published in August 2016. Their conclusion estimated personnel costs for the first year at $1,328,168.32 and technology costs of $600,791.38 bringing the year 1 total to $1,928,953.70. That total did not include any building renovation/construction or radio system upgrade outlined in their report. While I am in no way against consolidation, all parties must agree to it. Current structure for consolidation in Huron County would have the Sheriff in control of the consolidated services.
The smaller PSAPs of Bellevue, Norwalk, and Willard do not want to give up the personal service their dispatchers provide to their local communities. Those dispatchers perform other daily functions essential to daily operation. Additionally, we would have to ask the tax payers for an even higher property tax levy to operate the consolidated center and the upfront costs and yearly operational costs would be staggering.
The radio system upgrade recommended by MCM Consulting Group totaled more than $6.3 million dollars and adjusting for 5 percent escalation in prices per year would be closer to $9 million currently. We currently utilize a virtual consolidation as all agencies in Huron County access and share our CAD system (Computer Aided Dispatch). This allows for standardized procedures and guidelines to use across the entire county. I also spoke with David Bailey of Morgan County, who said “If I were to budget funds today for a single county system, I may be looking at something around $3/4 million dollars.” While looking at Huron County’s options we determined they were fairly limited due to our location. We are an hour between Toledo and Cleveland, which would make tying into existing fiber networks quite expensive.
Our current plan has a new diverse fiber path being installed and running less than 1/8th of a mile on an existing Frontier connection and costing us over $40,000. While I understand the implications and costs, 9-1-1 and emergency response is not an area we should cut corners. We have had 9 outages to the 9-1-1 system since January 2018, that is not to scare anyone, it’s the truth and it’s difficult to deal with knowing we can’t afford to make the necessary upgrades. Unfortunately, until the state prioritizes 9-1-1 and first responders, we will continue to be underfunded and seeking the support of our residents.
If anyone has any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me: Tacy Bond (247 S. Norwalk Road, Norwalk, Ohio 44857) 419-663-5772