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York County commissioner Susan Byrnes offers support for the commission's 2-1 vote to approve a consultation contract for the county 911 center. William Kalina, 717-505-5449/@BillKalina

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Two outgoing York County commissioners approved a $750,000 six-month contract Wednesday with New Jersey-based IXP Corp. to take on a consultation role within the 911 Center.

The lone dissenting vote, Commissioner Doug Hoke, objected to the cost of the contract, while several candidates running for commissioner in November's election said the issue should be decided by the new board.

IXP, which has a history of privatizing similar facilities and recently completed an audit proposing the center be restructured and IXP take over all nonunion positions, will on Monday begin working with management to reorganize a center that has long struggled with staffing, retention and administrative issues.

IXP will not be taking over management.

"Yes, we are investing a lot of money, but we think it's worth it," said President Commissioner Susan Byrnes, who did not seek reelection this year. "This is a critical partnership, and as (county administrator) Mark Derr stated, the cost of doing nothing is much greater."

The county will pull the $750,000 from its general fund, which as of the end of 2018 contained roughly $40 million. The county will pay IXP roughly $120,000 per month.

Byrnes and Commissioner Chris Reilly, who failed to win a nomination in May's primary elections, asserted the county has been dealing with issues at the 911 Center for two decades and that attempts to address the most deep-seated issues have failed.

The Republican commissioners added it's clear they need to act now, and they believe IXP will be the company to bring the facility out of the dark times.

Two other firms responded to the request for qualification earlier this year: Harrisburg, Dauphin County-based MPS Consulting and Dallas, Luzerne County-based AMP Global Strategies.

Respondents did not pitch price tags for their services, as it was a request for qualifications, not a request for proposals, said county solicitor Michèlle Pokrifka.

Regardless, Reilly said, the potential costs didn't play a factor because it was clear IXP was most qualified.

Hoke, who cast the only vote opposing the deal, said he couldn't look past the costs to hire IXP for the job.

"My initial shock and concern was the cost — three quarters of a million for six months of work," he said. "I first thought is was a typing error. The cost of this contract extension is unrealistic, and I will not support this."

Multiple 911 Center employees shared Hoke's concerns about the cost. But they also voiced fears about their job security and what they saw as an insufficient search to find someone to come in and help them turn the center around.

Lisa Witmer, who works as a terminal agency coordinator in the 911 Center, said some of those in administrative positions have already left within the past two months out of fear they will lose their jobs. 

"Even though emergencies are still happening, our job securities were stripped away," Witmer said. "An already-critical situation has been made more dire. The cost of the last 59 days is much more than the price tag on this contract."

Several candidates for county commissioner — all three seats are up for grabs in November — also urged the county to put off the decision until after the upcoming elections when fresh faces are at the helm of the county.

"It seems odd that (this) would be high priority, unbudgeted, and has to go through this year," said Judith Higgins, a Democratic commissioner candidate. 

Ron Smith, a Republican candidate for commissioner, asked whether the county performed a nationwide search to replace the center's leadership and save money. Byrnes said the county did not.

IXP's July audit marked the third audit of the facility in two years, which combined have cost taxpayers $285,000.

The audit detailed a "broken" structure that IXP Corp. President Larry Consalvos said would require a complete overhaul to prevent the center's performance and employee management from degrading further. 

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.

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