The Kyle Report

The Kyle Report

Sunday, September 3, 2017

City may take first step to co-locate emergency call center

I've been trying to wade through all the paperwork accompanying the item on Tuesday’s City Council agenda concerning what is being referred to as the Combined Emergency Communication Center (CECC) and three thoughts immediately come to the forefront. First, the organizational chart outlined in the 30-year interlocal agreement looks like typical bureaucratic quicksand. Second, the agreement’s language covering the operations and maintenance of the CECC is typical bureaucratic gibberish. And third, if this is such a great idea, why isn’t the City of San Marcos or Texas State University participating?

First things first: the organization chart. The CECC combines Kyle together with Hays County and the City of Buda. All 9-1-1 calls from any of those jurisdictions will be routed to a centralized call center located within the city limits of San Marcos (go figure). The CECC is operated by three layers of boards, which are, in the order in which they appear on the organizational chart, the executive board, the advisory board and the management board. That’s right. Three boards at the top of the organizational chart and not a director to be found. The first time any mention of a director, or supervisor, or boss comes in the agreement is in Section 7.03 which specifies the duties of someone referred to as the "Hays County Emergency Communications Director." I promise I’m not making this up. This is the first paragraph of that part of the agreement that specifies this director’s responsibilities: "Supervise the Shared Employees, however, the Hays County Emergency Communications Director will not supervise, manage, or direct any non-Hays County Party’s Agency Specific CECC Employees, who shall nonetheless cooperate and coordinate with the Parties’ Agency Specific CECC Program Employees and the Shared Employees." Huh?

It turns out there will be two types of employees at the facility — "agency specific employees" who are employed directly by one of the three participating government entities and "shared employees" who are employed by Hays County and whose salaried are funded by the shared contributions of the parties involved. Yet, the bylaws of the organization state the "CECC Program means the Combined Emergency Communications Center Program, which includes the CECC, the Shared Employees, and all of the CECC Systems housed and managed within the public safety facility." What about those "agency specific employees’? Are they not part of this deal? This is just one example of the gobble-de-gook that has me scratching my head over this entire deal.

And nowhere in three paragraphs of the director’s duties does it specify his or her relationship to the three boards that supposedly run the show. Is the director answerable to one or more of the boards? I dunno, the agreement doesn’t say. The first of those three boards, the Executive Board, is to be comprised of two members of the Hays County Commissioners Court, one member of the Kyle City Council, Kyle City Manager Scott Sellers or his designee, one member of the Buda City Council, the Buda city manager or his designee and a representative from the Emergency Services District. I was thinking that Kyle council member Damon Fogley, because of his ESD experience, would be the ideal Kyle City Council representative. He told me today "It was mentioned that I might serve but no decision has been made." He added such an appointment might be a part of Tuesday’s council discussion.

Now to the important part, i.e., the money part. According to this document, 911 call percentages have "been used to determine the cost allocations for shared expenses related to the CECC." However, all of Buda’s 9-1-1 calls came through the Hayes County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), so there is really no precise way to determine Buda’s share. So they decided to come up with Buda’s share by computing the number of "calls for service" received by the Buda Police Department and compare that to the "calls for service" received by the HCSO. It turned out that Buda PD’s calls were 18.627 percent of the HCSO total. So, the number crunchers figured, Buda’s 9-1-1 calls are also 18.627 percent of the total such calls received by the sheriff’s office. So when the 9-1-1 calls of all three entities are combined, Kyle’s percentage comes to 25 percent of the total, the county’s 61 percent and Buda’s 14 percent and those will be the percentages used to calculate the costs each will contribute, Got it?

There are also costs involved in updating KPD’s computer systems to make them compatible with those of the other entities. If I read what is being called the "CECC Interlocal Cooperative Agreement" correctly, Exhibit A on Page 8 suggests Kyle’s costs for this upgrade is in the neighborhood of $437,927. And that figure is $100,000 more than anticipated for three reasons. First, the cost for the "installation, system configuration, training, on-site operations" of the "CIS Professional Services" was $10,000 higher than originally budgeted. Second, the cost of the "interface between CIS CAD and the KPD CMS," nearly doubled, from $65,000 to $125.000. Third, a $30,000 cost was added to pay for the Grande "fiber connection to City of Kyle."

The way I see it, the takeaway here is the city is looking to participate in a deal that only a dedicated bureaucrat with access to an attorney proficient in double-talk knows what’s really involved. As for the rest of us, I guess we have to put our faith in those bureaucrats and attorneys.

As to why San Marcos chose not to participate, the answer appears to be the city didn’t think it made financial sense for it to participate, but it also thinks it is a great idea for Kyle, Buda and other parts of Hays County. In fact, when I posed the very question I asked in the last sentence of this first paragaph of this story to the City of San Marcos’s Communications Department, Kristi Wyatt from that department forwarded me a response from Police Chief Chase Stapp.

"The Hays County Combined Emergency Communications Center is a project that started its planning stages close to 10 years ago," Stapp wrote. "At that time, the City of San Marcos also began studying the feasibility of participating in the center. As the project progressed over the years, the City of San Marcos continued to fund critical upgrades to its own 911 Communications Center to include technology and spacial needs. When the final Hays County CECC project costs were released, the City of San Marcos had to conduct a cost versus benefit analysis to determine whether the added cost of participating in the new center was a financially sound decision for the City. At that time, the City's 911 Communications Center was functioning well, and we had identified a plan to expand the center to meet our growth needs in the future."

Chief Stapp also said his city’s 911 center could serve as a valuable backup to the CECC and concluded with: "The San Marcos Police Department is in full support of the Hays County CECC, and we believe the project makes a great deal of sense for the participating agencies."

Other items of interest on Tuesday’s agenda include:
  • The final approval of the city’s FY 2017-18 budget and the fixing of the property tax rate.
  • Even though the fiscal year doesn’t officially begin until Oct. 1, the agenda includes an item to spend money from this budget, specifically $35,000 of the $35,697 in the upcoming budget designated for the Court Security Fund to provide video surveillance at City Hall. For some reason, this expenditure comes under the jurisdiction of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
  • Adopting a resolution that documents the city’s ultra-conservative investment policies (and when it comes to investing taxpayer funds, I’m very much in favor of the "ultra-conservative" approach)..
  • Police Chief Jeff Barnett is expected to update the council on the fact that a new state law which prohibits using wireless communications for texting while driving supersedes any city ordinances on the subject, but that the city may continue to enforce ordinances prohibiting the use of such devices that are not hands-free for phone calls as long as signs are posted "at each point at which a state highway, U.S. highway, or interstate enters the city" notifying motorists of such an ordinance.
  • The 12-month renewal of a lease on three Harleys to be use by the KPD which will give council member Travis Mitchell, who, because of his business, has knowledge about such items, the opportunity to explain why using Harleys might not be the best way to employ city funds.
  • The appointment of two persons to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Travis Robinson, an engineer whose experience includes designing and overseeing the permitting process for residential and commercial development projects, is the nominee to replace commissioner Brad Growt for Seat 3. Hays County Food Bank CEO Leslie Denise Blok is the nominee to replace commissioner Allison Wilson for Seat 4. The council will also consider a political patronage nominee for the Ethics Commission.

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