Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — The Orleans County Legislature approved an agreement between the Sheriff’s Office and Verizon that will accelerate the local arrival of the next generation in 911 communications, according to the official who negotiated the contract.
Kevin Doherty, the owner of Doherty Communications, told legislators that when the telecom provider for many emergency service providers — including the County Sheriff’s and Emergency Management departments — went bankrupt it created both a problem and an opportunity.
“We had a relatively new product with no factory back-up,” Doherty said of the recently purchased equipment. “With Verizon, we can refresh or replace the equipment three to five years ahead of time ... equipment with next generation technology.”
Legislators did just that, approving a $205,812.80 service agreement for new equipment and another $92,872.72 for labor with Verizon’s business consumer arm.
Doherty said the next-generation platforms purchased by the county will not immediately be able to bring Orleans County to the next step in 911 communications but will prove to be a cheaper way to be ready for the next technology step.
The ability for text and picture messages to be submitted, received and recorded by emergency service providers is likely a few more years away. But soon the assumed notion that texts to 911 will be understood and acted on will be a reality.
“People have gotten ahead of the technology,” Doherty noted. “It’s clearly advantageous in a situation like a fire, where a photo can tell responders more than a person.”
When that happens, Orleans and other counties that have upgraded their technological platforms will be ready to advance. Doherty predicts the technology catching up in the middle of this decade; the Orleans County equipment is set to be installed next spring.
One change that is occurring earlier is the reduction of the County Mental Health Department’s Continuing Day Treatment Program, which was unanimously recommended by the County’s Community Services Board and planned in the County’s 2013 preliminary budget.
The Legislature approved abolishing five full-time positions associated with the program — a staff counselor, two therapy aides, a program director and a mental health nurse — at the end of the year. The nurse position, which Mental Health Director James Graziano said was split between the program and the mental health clinic, is being replaced by a part-time position on Jan. 2 which fills the same role as before in the clinic.
County Chief Administrative Officer Chuck Nesbitt said an informal plan with Genesee County, which is continuing it’s continuing day treatment program, will provide an option for the county’s current program.
The mental health department will have 23 full-time staff in 2013, down eight from the start of the year. Six of the reductions are from the discontinued program; two more are from case management. Graziano said the department’s continuing services will be able to meet the county’s needs.
“We’ll be able to maintain the clinic and provide full services,” said Graziano, who noted that partnerships are another component of the county’s offerings. “We want to serve all of the county’s mental health needs ... we can do that with contractual relationships and referrals.”
• Legislators authorized $14,500 in supplemental allocations to three outside agencies from the county’s contingency fund. Legislator Ken Rush said the $10,000 allocated to the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, the $2,000 allocated to the Orleans County Sportsman Federation and the $2,500 allocated to the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District is well deserved.
“With Soil & Water, we get a good return on our investments,” Rush said. “The legislature didn’t budget anything for many years for the sportsmen (who maintain the log cabin on the County Fairgrounds property) ... it’s a lot of work they are doing on the cabin.”
“We’ve cut the (OCCE) $24,000 in recent years. They’ve asked that the money go towards paying off their mortgage,” said Rush, who noted that a fundraiser is being set up to cover costs at the Buzz Hill Education Building.
• The budget hearing for the County’s 2013 spending plan is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the County Courthouse. The legislature is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday to approve the budget.