Among the barriers to increased cooperation among local governments are radio dispatching systems that limit the ability of safety forces to communicate effectively. If police and fire operations are to work together, setting the stage even for merger, the right communications gear must be in place.
One big driver toward a regional approach is the expense of replacing aging radio equipment, as recently encountered by Barberton, New Franklin and Clinton. Following a similar strategy as pursued by Fairlawn, Norton and Copley and Bath townships, the three communities joined to seek successfully an $851,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, covering most of the cost of upgrading their radio systems.
By August, the new digital systems will enable police, fire, emergency medical and public works departments to respond together more quickly. Eventually, the systems will be able to link with the county radio system, belonging to the city of Akron and Summit County, due for an upgrade between 2014 and 2018.
Other equipment costs also loom, the price of some fire trucks as high as $1 million, all adding to the challenge of local governments to do more with less. The way forward is to take a cooperative approach, sharing the financial burden.
The long-term goal must be to merge fully departments, driving down administrative overhead and sharing equipment so that resources can be directed to the services citizens expect, especially emergency services. In that way, the replacement of aging gear serves to put communities on a pathway that will eventually result in both savings and improved response.