911 unity adviser calls for patience
By Ed Runyan
Better service should be the goal of consolidation, a consultant said.
YOUNGSTOWN — One of the key messages Barry Strock, a consultant from Albany, N.Y., delivered to members of the Regional Chamber’s Mahoning County Metro Leaders’ Roundtable was that consolidating services such as 911 call taking will be far from easy.
Strock, hired by the Mahoning County commissioners as a “management therapist” to help promote cooperation among the county’s government bodies, said he’s been around Mahoning County enough over 15 years to know that politics could interfere with any consolidation effort.
He outlined the obstacles and answered questions at a meeting Monday afternoon in the Mahoning County Courthouse.
As meetings are held in the coming months, Strock will try to guide the representatives assigned by their communities to avoid a number of pitfalls, he said.
It won’t be necessary for every one of the 27 government bodies in the county to become part of the consolidation, but Strock said he hopes to help as many of them as possible “buy in.”
But there must be “no tyrant running things,” he said. The county commissioners will not be “drivers” of the process. It must be driven by the voting members who attend the meetings.
He doubted anything can be accomplished in a year, and it could take as much as five years, he said.
Each government body except the village of Washingtonville has passed a resolution appointing a voting representative to attend 911 consolidation advisory meetings, said Maggi McGee, county 911 director.
The first meeting will be at 9 a.m. Dec. 16 in the Boardman Township Hall.
Strock warned that a consolidation of 911 call taking, for instance, will need to provide customers with “far better” service than what they have now, or consolidation shouldn’t be attempted.
Further, one of the main goals of consolidation — cost savings — isn’t likely to occur at the beginning. It takes time.
Jason Loree, Boardman Township administrator, asked if Strock could provide examples of consolidations that have occurred in other areas. Strock said he would provide that and consider taking participants on a “field visit” to show an area that has achieved consolidation.
Strock said he believes it will be fairly easy to tell whether the Mahoning County has much of a chance of achieving consolidation by the end of the first few meetings based on the group dynamics of the people who are part of the process, he said.
“I’ve done this hundreds of times,” he said.
There are currently eight answering points for 911 calls — Youngstown, where the city and county each have one, Austintown, Canfield, Boardman, Beaver Township, Struthers and Sebring.