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GCN : July 2014
SHARED SERVICES 24 GCN JULY 2014 • GCN.COM Plus, times have been tough since the economic downturn began in 2007. "We have seen what it does to munici- palities, county and state budgets," Gold- en said. Lately however, local governments have begun accelerating their transition to shared IT resources, and are starting to see tangible results. According to Golden, 27 police departments and more than 70 fire and emergency medical services (EMS) departments now take advantage of the shared infrastructure. It's no wonder sharing and consolida- tion is trending. The proof is in the bottom line. "Generally, they are seeing savings of about 50 to 70 percent savings," Golden said. What's more, for Monmouth, fees generated via shared services will amount to more than $4 million annually, which will provide for a payback period of less than 10 years. SHARING AND CONSOLIDATION TACTICS Given the demand on local government agencies to cut costs, alternative forms of IT services and infrastructure sharing are starting to emerge, according to local gov- ernment managers. In some cases, the agencies themselves absorb one another to share resources. In other cases, the departments remain in- tact, but share common systems. This was the case in Monmouth, where small town police departments could simply not af- ford new technologies or personnel. Both scenarios stem from the same problem: local governments can't afford to main- tain redundant systems amid continuing budget constraints. What's more, the drive to consolidate cuts across local governments of all siz- es. In Vermont, for example, the towns of Dorset (population 2,031) and Man- chester (population 4,391) are seeking a contractor to conduct a public safety and emergency services consolidation study. The towns released a request for pro- posals earlier this year and expect to pick a contractor this summer to complete the study by late November. The RFP notes that Manchester seeks, "long-term sustainability and cost con- tainment typically associated with con- solidation and regionalization of public safety services." Manchester already aims to make its emergency operations center (EOC) a shared resource. The EOC, which was built about two years ago, resides in the town's Public Safety Facility and includes a communications room. The town used the EOC during Super- storm Sandy, and, more recently, the Ver- mont state police used the center during an Amber Alert situation. John O'Keefe, Manchester's town manager, described the communications room as a "hot EOC," noting that the center requires very little set up to activate. "We have been working hard to de- velop the EOC into a regional -- at least the northern part of our county -- asset," O'Keefe said. In addition to the EOC, Manchester op- erates a dispatch center, which provides two-way radio communication with area police departments and rescue squads. The dispatch center is also located in the Public Safety Facility. O'Keefe said one objective expressed in the RFP is to have town and county gov- ernments collaborate and readily share information. "We plan to heavily use IT to achieve this goal," he said. The town already uses its EOC to push out information to the field, O'Keefe pointed out. All of Manchester's po- lice cruisers are equipped with mobile data terminals, and its three busiest fire trucks have iPad tablets to receive tacti- cal data. SOUTH SOUND 911 At the other end of the country, South Sound 911 is consolidating public safety systems that will serve a population base of 800,000 people in the Seattle-Tacoma- Bellevue, Wash., metro area. South Sound 911, an interlocal agency, spans Pierce County, the City of Tacoma, the City of Lakewood, the City of Fife and West Pierce Fire & Rescue. Andrew Neiditz, executive director of South Sound 911, said the agency's goal is to consolidate five 911 centers into a uni- fied operation over the next two and a half years. The agency will eventually provide 911 and dispatch services for 16 police and 22 fire departments. The efficiency that comes with consoli- dation saves money and can potentially save lives. Neiditz said the benefits of consolida- tion include public safety interoperability for police, fire and EMS and "faster and more effective response." Neiditz said he expects to achieve cost savings through improved economies of scale and also as a result of lower facility overhead, administration costs and soft- ware licensing fees. South Sound 911 earlier this year tapped Intergraph for public safety sys- tems that will replace "multiple disparate systems, according to an Intergraph state- ment. The new systems include Inter- graph's I/CAD system and other products such as Mobile Responder and Mobile for Public Safety. At South Sound 911, the 911 consolidation and accompanying ra- dio system upgrades are being financed through a 25-year tax increase. Pierce County voters in 2011 approved a .1 per- cent countywide sales and use tax for the public safety project. Another benefit of consolidation: im- proved disaster recovery. The lack of ad- equate backup systems among smaller towns and public safety agencies became more evident in light of Superstorm San- dy, Monmouth's Golden noted. He said towns are looking for ways to store data --- such as tax roll and payroll information --- so it can be easily retrieved in the event of another disaster. The county's Public Safety Center, however, offers redundancy in its stor- age service. The center continually repli- cates files between the center in Freehold, N.J. and a backup facility, the Shore Area Communications Center, in Neptune, N.J. Monmouth uses EMC's Avamar software/ hardware solution for its backup and re- covery service. The center is promoting this shared service to local governments and also plans to pursue small businesses clients. Golden said small companies that don't want to use cloud-based services can take advantage of the center's security and redundancy. •