Posted by on August 12, 2020 9:48 pm

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Categories: Coronavirus in Pennsylvania Coronavirus in Schuylkill County Local News

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Schuylkill County Commissioners rushed through a resolution on Wednesday to spend $2.197 million on communications devices for the 9-1-1 center in Pottsville in case a COVID-19 outbreak shuts it down somehow.

This item did not appear on Wednesday’s meeting Agenda and was added under “New New Business” by County Administrator Gary Bender.

There is no such thing as “New New Business”.

Schuylkill County Spending $2+ Million in CARES Act Money on Backup 9-1-1 Dispatch

Schuylkill County will use part of its CARES Act allocation to pay for this.

“If 9-1-1 goes down, we need to have something in place,” Bender explained. “Scott (Krater) has worked very diligently to put this in place. The purchase has been approved by our consultant.”

Before we delve into how the 9-1-1 system could “go down” because of the China virus, let’s go over the scant details we have on this deal that was rushed through and not put on the public Agenda distributed prior to Wednesday’s meeting.

The County is spending (or from the sound of it, has spent $2,197,000 of its CARES Act allocation on 6 “Nomad Remote Dispatch Consoles” from Motorola Solutions. Presumably, the County is dealing with Green’s Communications of Pottsville to get this equipment.

After Commissioners unanimously approved the motion to purchase this seemingly unnecessary equipment for a 9-1-1 backup center, residents listening to today’s meeting chimed in on chunk of change dropped Wednesday and on the lack of transparency surrounding the County’s CARES Act allocation.

Ringtown resident Doug Litwhiler, who frequently voices his opinion at these meetings, said of the CARES Act spending, “It’s like a big secret with this money. I don’t know. It’s crazy any more.”

Savas Logothetides, among numerous roles he’s the executive director at Pottsville Area Development Corp. (PADCO), questioned the transparency of the County’s CARES Act spending.

“The great majority of your peers throughout the state have enacted some type of business relief act. You still have not 3 months later,” he said.

How Can COVID-19 Shut Down the 9-1-1 Center?

Back to the issue of COVID-19 shutting down the 9-1-1 center in Pottsville …

How would this happen, exactly? The County officials who hurried this decision through today with zero advanced notice to the public and using language to indicate the money’s already been spent did not say exactly how the virus could shut down emergency communications.

Yes, a dispatcher could get sick. The virus could even spread to multiple dispatchers, as scary as that could be. But it hasn’t happened yet, to the best of anyone’s knowledge. That certainly wasn’t brought up today as a reason for buying this expensive equipment.

Instead, Bender said “If 9-1-1- goes down” …

That seems highly unlikely and hardly worth spending more than $2 million in the odd chance that the virus somehow infected a phone line or equipment.

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7 responses to Schuylkill County Using $2.197 Million in CARES Money for Backup 9-1-1 in Case of COVID

  1. coalregion12 August 12th, 2020 at 10:50 pm

    Well Bender is running the County now, pretty evident. Unelected bureaucrat. Love Skook politics!

    Reply

  2. Anon E. Mouse August 13th, 2020 at 3:13 am

    Sounds to me that they were up against a use it or lose it deadline and they didn’t do the necessary follow-thru to use it for business assistance. So they rush thru this 911 back-up. I will bet that at some point, now that the money is appropriated to the county, that they will justify the need to redirect these funds to a more pressing need. They will submit some supplemental paperwork and the 911 back-up is shelved!

    Reply

    • Canary Commenter August 13th, 2020 at 8:46 am

      Or the 911 backup is a cover for something else. In private conversations held a few months ago, someone at The Canary predicted they’d spend some of this money on the 911 center. They ALWAYS do. The deadline to spend this, we believe, is the end of the year. Now, while the end of 2020 can’t come soon enough, it’s hardly right around the corner. As Mr. Logothetides said Wednesday and we pointed out earlier this week in a story, other counties have established grant programs to help the many small businesses severely hurt by the pandemic shutdowns. That wouldn’t be too difficult. They could have even borrowed the same language from other counties’ programs and distributed the money to needy businesses.

      Reply

  3. Juli August 13th, 2020 at 9:49 am

    If he’s so worried about 911 dispatch going down due to our overwhelming emergencies in this county, then why is he not wearing his mask correctly? I thought this money was supposed to go to the people of this county. Why is it going to the officials of this county?

    Reply

  4. Anon E. Mouse August 13th, 2020 at 10:45 am

    It seems extremely odd all this money would flow to the 911 center given the needs of all the communities and small businesses in Schuylkill County (by the way I believe there are 67 sub-divisions of municipal governments in the county).
    Of course putting it all into one project eliminates a ton of paperwork and regulatory oversight; so maybe it’s just “the path of least resistance (or assistance)”!

    Reply

    • Canary Commenter August 13th, 2020 at 12:10 pm

      If the County government created a grant program for small businesses – which apparently there is but it’s a big secret and not advertised – it could still charge up to 2-3% (not sure on the exact figure without looking it up) in an administration fee for each grant. Since it wouldn’t cost nearly that much money to administer each grant, at least not in the private sector, the County could still get back at least some of its losses caused by the pandemic. And those losses pale in comparison to what actual businesses are facing or have faced. Government “losses” are only losses if you’re in government, of course.

      Reply

  5. Anon E. Mouse August 13th, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    It seems to me you have the makings of an interesting story (or expose). I’m no journalist, but if I was, I’d probably start by connecting all the dots!

    Reply

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