For 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• Current 911 facilities are outdated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.”