Results of study into shared services should be fruitful

Finding ways to improve efficiency of and/or share public services — whether they be police, sanitary sewer, water or emergency communications — just makes sense.

The cost of government just keeps rising, folks, and we don’t see a reverse of that trend anytime soon.

So our elected leaders need to always be open to finding ways to reduce or stabilize costs to taxpayers without comprising important services.

That’s why the Clinton County commissioners’ decision to spend $48,000 in Act 12 grant funding with a consultant who will pinpoint and recommend changes to enhance emergency communications into “shared regional services” should prove fruitful.

Will there be cost savings?

Possibly, but Clinton County’s 911 center is relatively new.

Before it was built, the commissioners discussed the possibility of a sharing a 911 center with Centre County, but there was virtually no local support.

Instead, they forged ahead using natural gas impact fee money to install a new 911 center in the old Flemington school.

So what will come from this study?

In Clinton’s case, MCM Consulting Group Inc. is looking at insuring the 911 system has redundancies … backup via a neighboring county’s 911 center should there be any significant event that knocks out emergency communications here.

“Inter-connectivity” is how one commissioner described it.

There’s also the example of two neighboring counties to our south.

Last year, Snyder and Union counties hired the same MCM Consulting Group to conduct a $55,000 study of their respective 911 emergency communcations services, referred to among those in the profession as PSAPs, or Public Safety Answering Points.

The result was a recommendation to merge the two counties 911 centers into one.

The Snyder and Union commissioners expect to save $1 million over seven years and improve services by establishing a single 911 center serving both counties.

MCM determined after a six-month study that technological advances are driving costs skyward.

Key to the consolidation is bi-county cooperation via a “joinder board” to be formally known as the Central Susquehanna Regional 911 System that “will allow the community leaders to move forward” with the plan, Snyder County board Chairman Joe Kantz recently told the Sunbury Daily Item newspaper.

A little on-line research reveals the introduction of MCM’s report to the Snyder-Union commissioners says this:

“With many Pennsylvania counties facing an austere fiscal environment and rising costs for the operation of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs – otherwise known as 9-1-1 centers), and acknowledging the advances that have been made in 911 technology, the counties of Snyder and Union contracted with MCM Consulting Group, Inc. (MCM) to review their respective PSAPs and examine their possible consolidation.”

The consultants visited both counties, conducted interviews, analyzed and compared staffing, equipment and space, caculated the number of 911 calls inbound and outbound, and determined that, between the two counties, they were collectively spending $3,185,485 for their 911 centers.

They determined that a significant amount of the savings will come from consolidation of capital or equipment costs, not staffing. And they also recommended that the merged center be located at Snyder County’s existing center in Penn Township, and suggested it should have more staffing, not less.

That scenario likely doesn’t make sense here with our new 911 center, plus the mountainous terrain in Clinton County makes extra investment in 911 towers here crucial.