call centerFor once, some of our elected public servants are looking out for your safety, welfare and even your tax dollars instead of their own political fiefdoms.

I’m talking about the Fayetteville City Council and the uber politically motivated Cumberland County Board of Commissioners. Both governing bodies are looking to provide citizens (aka taxpayers) with a more efficient and cost-effective emergency 911 service.

What started as a discussion several years ago to co-locate Fayetteville’s and Cumberland County’s independently-operated call centers for the sake of space has morphed into a full marriage proposal for the city and county’s 911 service.

The city and county this past June even signed an “engagement” agreement, a joint resolution they call it. The agreement supports a “continued collaboration on the development of a joint 911 and emergency operations center.”

The initial catalyst for looking to move in together is that city and county call centers are cramped and expansion for improved services is a no go. Also, working in the cramped environment doesn’t bode well for optimum efficiency.

So, the city and county did what all government agencies do, they hired a consultant: Mission Critical Partners, experts in public safety planning. They’re a Pennsylvania company with an office in Raleigh.

Mission Critical Partners, or MCP, assessed the feasibility of co-locating and then merging the two operations. It presented its findings to the City/County Liaison Committee in February.

The City/County Liaison Committee brings together city and county elected people and their respective senior staff to parley about issues affecting both sides.

Here’s what MCP had to say:

Current 911 facilities are outdated

There’s no room to expand operations

It’s not efficient to work in those facilities

Putting new technology in old facilities creates new problems

Also, both centers are not survivable if a major disaster should occur in those locations. The city’s well-run utility, the Fayetteville Public Works Commission, learned that lesson during Hurricane Matthew.

And here’s what MCP said the city and county need to do:

First, get together and create a committee … it’s what governments do

Decide on where you want to put a new facility

Figure out how to pay for it

Apply for a hefty grant from the state’s NC911 Board

The consultant recommended two places to put a new facility: the as yet empty Cedar Creek Business Park owned by the county or on property located off Fields Road and owned by the City.

Based on those recommendations, city and county moved forward and established their executive steering committee. It includes members of both governing boards, their senior management team, their respective lawyers (got to have lawyers), their money people and people actually doing the public safety work.

The “agreement to cooperate” signed in June by Mayor Nat Robertson and then County Board of Commission Chair Marshall Faircloth says a combined 911 call center would improve efficiency, improve the flow of communications among first responders, and would reduce maintenance costs.

And, combining the two centers, according to the agreement, would allow people operating the center to advance to a higher level of service. The idea sounds so appealing that even Fort Bragg’s Garrison Command may want in.

I tried contacting someone in the know about next steps but was directed to the city’s and county’s public relations people. They responded to my email requests but I didn’t get a chance to follow up personally. So, while the information is good, I can’t attribute it to any one person in particular.

Here’s what is happening next. The city and county “Task Force” will submit a grant application to the North Carolina 911 Board in the spring, hoping for money sometime in the fall.

Exact savings as a result of the merger is not yet discernible but expect “efficiencies in a number of different administrative and operational areas.” 

But everything good does cost money. So, initial costs estimates are a cool $30 million for the “facility, technology, furnishings and other critical infrastructure.”

 

As a member of the Cape Fear River Assembly Board with lifelong involvement in agriculture, the land and water, the title of this little piece is very important to me. 
Matthew visited us in October 2016. It was preceded about a week by heavy ground-saturating rain. The damaging wind came and went in about a day or so, but we are still dealing with the impacts of storm water from the combination of events. Hurricane Floyd came in 1999 with less damaging wind inland but an almost identical pattern of preceding rainfall and huge combined storm water damage. Some places such as Princeville and parts of Lumberton may never return after those two mostly storm water events. 
We often talk about 100 year or 500 year storms, or 100-year 24-hour rainfall events, etc., without quantification of either. A 100-year rain event is one that is 1 percent likely to happen during any year (once every 100 years). There is no set amount of rain to qualify. It means nothing!
So, what did we learn? Apparently not enough! In Fayetteville, are there not some residential areas that were built in what could be or should be considered “flood plains,” (or maybe not even considered?) and thus suffered major damage?  Or areas such as Rayconda, which watched its access road disappear with the dam that washed out because of lack of planning for storm water management from paved areas at the new VA hospital site? And there is to be more development in the VA area that will make the problem worse. And there are more examples. 
I was much involved in the aftermath of Floyd and its impact on agriculture in eastern N.C. and saw recurrences of that again with Matthew. It took me back to my hometown of Westfield, Mass., when we had 18.3 inches of rain on August 20, 1955, as a result of hurricane Diane. There was virtually NO wind damage but a devastating impact of storm water. I saw it up close and personal. Westfield did not have a storm water plan, but they do now!
There is rumor of either the existence of a (soon to be released?) storm water plan for Fayetteville. And there may well one somewhere. But how many residents have seen it? And how much public input was there in its development? And if there is one, how often is it used in making siting location decisions for developing or paving a plot of open space? Is the plan current if it exists? I hope that the answers to these questions are all affirmative. But it is not apparent to me that they are.
Maybe it is time to have a serious public discussion about storm water and how it is currently managed, how it is intended to be managed into the future, as well as how it is to impact future development. 
Do we need to wait for the new baseball stadium to become a big splash pad during baseball season before there is an effective storm water management plan for Fayetteville? A lot of people in Fayetteville do not think so.
 
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