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