Commissioner’s Legislative Session notes – 9-1-1 Consolidation – 10/30/2009

Allen County Board of Commissioners Seal

Notes from the Allen County Board of Commissioner’s Legislative Session concerning the Interlocal Agreement between the Allen County Board of Commissioners and City of Fort Wayne for operation of the joint 9-1-1 communications center.

Commissioner Peters is talking about the discussion on Monday. He had the opportunity to speak with Sheriff Ken Fries. He suggested Nelson contact Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York. They can defer the matter, however, he’s not sure what the overall timeline is. He suggested to the Sheriff, that if by January 1st, nothing is worked out, the Interlocal Agreement would automatically kicked in. Sheriff responded he was not interested in that.

Peters is expressing frustration over not having resolution.  Why we’ve taken this much time to get to this point is frustrating. He’s all ears how to get it done.

Commissioner Bill Brown is speaking. He knows this has been a polarizing issue inside the City and County governments. For the record, “it is a wall that separates two offices with glass panels and doors.”  He is talking about the phrase President Reagan used to ask Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear the wall in Berlin down.  Brown is stating that County government is nowhere near as polarized as Russia.

He is giving an update concerning the state legislature’s actions that have led to today. “I don’t know off anyone that’s against consolidation.”  There are cultural differences (with a small ‘c’) between the City and County. Nelson Peters should be commended for getting the issue started again.

Last year, Brown asked the Sheriff how it could be done. He responded that the Executive Board should consist of the three Commissioners, which mirrored the statute. He then talked about Mayoral appointments and oversight board. He did like the idea of a 6 member board with the Commissioners as tie-breaker.

He’s talking about a consensus board. He’s advocating for a consensus board. It puts people on equal footing, makes it easier to get work done and has worked well for the Department of Planning Services.

I’m not against 9-1-1 consolidation, but I am against forcing the Sheriff into something he doesn’t think is right. He is talking about budget shortfalls ahead for the 9-1-1 system. Only way to increase funding, is to go through usage fees on cell phones. This would require state code changes.

The costs associated with this have to be approved by the County Council. No one he’s talked with on County Council supports this as written. Most of them do support some sort of consolidation inside the departments.

“I feel it could get worked out.” “I am not at all interested in voting on the Interlocal that’s before us today.”

Commissioner Linda Bloom is speaking. The meeting Monday wasn’t fun, but it was extremely enlightening. “The wall has been a magnified perception.”

Talking about the purchase of hardware in 2002, how it was all the same equipment. No one has said anything bad about not combining for the safety of our community. It is far more combined than anyone thinks. Because we have opposition internally, it would be better to have more things specified in writing. “In my opinion, this should happen, but not the way it’s written today.”

Nelson Peters is speaking again. He’s saying he didn’t count his votes as well as he thought. Most on County Council are in agreement with it with some very small tweaks. Like a City Council member being on the board.

There is a $14 million dollar shortfall for 9-1-1 funding. coming down the road.  We could bond for it. He feels most of the local legislative delegation would not be interested in putting forward any new legislation this until consolidation is completed.

Commissioner Brown: The Sheriff has rightly so, stated this should be about public safety. “I don’t have a lot of confidence that in a short amount of time, we can reach an agreement.”  He again advocating for a consensus board. A 7th member throws things out of kilt. What I’m advocating is what the Sheriff is advocating for. There’s a dramatic difference between that and what the Sheriff is saying. “Someone is not being heard.”

Commissioner Peters: “We can talk about it until the cows come home. I recognize it’s not going to get the votes to pass today.”

Commissioner Brown: There are some things that are very good. For example number nine, benchmarks. I think they should be required to be in place.

Commissioner Peters: We can discuss it as long as we want, but it’s not going to get to where we want.  The Sheriff has suggested he spend some time with Chief Rusty York. If it will be a better product because of it, I’m fine with that. However, we need to have a timeline established.

I would bet that if the Sheriff and City would be in agreement, the Mayor and rest would go with it. “We need to stop talking about it and get something done.”

Commissioner Brown: My point is that this (consensus board) is something that has been utilized in another merger and works well. It bothers him the Sheriff is not on board and he needs that support. I believe the consensus board is a great way to bring people together on equal footing in situations like this where they’re polarized. I would look at this again in 60 days.

Commissioner Bloom: Talking about the need to consolidate by 2014. She certainly hopes she won’t have to wait that long. Asking if 60 days is what Bill Brown is advocating for.  Commissioner Brown affirms it is.

They are deferring the agreement for 60 days.

Open to the public for comments.

Deputy Mayor Greg Purcell:  The agreement has to be inclusive of the public safety agencies involved. He took the time to go down and talk to the City 9-1-1 staff this week.  He wouldn’t mind talking to the County staff as well.  He feels the staff feels they are the political football. It’s stressful enough in that department without the added pressure of us not making some sort of decision that would give them continuity. I’m not sure we’re treating them fairly. Having the public safety agencies on the board is critical. At some point we need to say stop and work this out for the sake of the 9-1-1 workers.

Commissioner Brown:  This is not a political decision or situation for me.  I’ve talked with our folks on the County side and no one is telling me they feel like the football.  He then goes on to state:

But you won’t have to look far, if you’re talking about politics, you brought it up, look at the fired [? not sure if it was fire, hire, fired] appointment to 9-1-1.  I’m not talking about the person per say, but just look at the political piece that’s connected to that.  They opposed each other [running for] Sheriff’s race, there was a representation that there would be over a million dollars saved – which all that started to melt down, down, down, down to basically nothing saved.  And then there was a prompt termination of a single point of accountability by the Police Chief…so yeah.  You know what?  I can probably see why they do feel like the political football.

Deputy Mayor Greg Purcell: Well, Commissioner, you’re right there in terms of that, but if you look on the other side, the Sheriff is an elected person and the people he appoints are going to be people who have some loyalty to him.  That’s really why I think having a board that gets it away from the political arena with police chiefs and fire chiefs that are on that board – it gets it one step removed.

The Director will be selected solely based on merit.

City Councilman Tom Smith: I do like the idea you’ve set a deadline.
Commissioner Brown: I wouldn’t exactly call it a deadline.
Councilman Smith: I’d like to think it’s a deadline so it will come to conclusion soon.

“I don’t care if there are elected members on this new board or not. Whoever’s on this board, I will trust. I really don’t care if it’s 6 or 7 members, I will trust the people to do a good job.”

The other thing I found surprising, is that the Sheriff and Police Chief haven’t talked about this. From what I’m hearing this hasn’t happened. If that conversation needs to take place, it better take place quickly. If they can resolve it, let them. Maybe if they could have talked six months ago, it could have been resolved – I don’t know.  I am for combining the departments. Let’s make up our minds.  If we’re going to do, let’s do it. Good luck.

Commissioner Brown: “To be clear, are you saying the City Council did not feel the need or want to have a seat on the board?”
Councilman Smith: “I have no idea.”
Commissioner Brown: “I mean in your opinion…”
Councilman Smith: “I don’t know.  In my opinion, it is not absolutely necessary.  Again, I will trust that we will have the best people on that board.  I have no objection to elected officials being on there, I understand the reasons for that…if that’s what it takes for this to happen, then put a member of County Council and a member of City Council on there.  If that gets in the way, then put somebody else on there.  Let’s just get it done!  Thank you.”

That ended the matter.

Related weblinks:
Audio (mp3) file of discussion
Letter from Sheriff Ken Fries to Board of Commissioners date 12/29/2008

Related Images:


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