911 center deal: six months, six people, $297 an hour

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Six months of management consulting services at the York County 911 Center will cost taxpayers $297 per hour for 2,524 hours of work, according to the contract the York County Commissioners approved on Wednesday.

IXP Corp., a New Jersey-based company specializing in 911 communications, will have six employees working on the project under the $750,000 deal.

“Am I happy about the cost? Of course not,” said York County Commissioner Chris Reilly. “But can you put a price on public safety?”

Reilly and Commissioner Susan Byrnes voted in favor of the contract. Commissioner Doug Hoke voted against it, saying it was too expensive.

IXP’s project manager, Kevin Kearns, will be on site full-time and will work 50 to 60 hours per week. The other five employees will either split their time between the 911 center and off-site work or they’ll work fully off-site.

The $750,000 price tag includes travel and cost-of-living expenses for the six employees. IXP did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

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Reilly, a five-time commissioner who lost the Republican primary in May, said there have been issues at the 911 center throughout his tenure and that firing and replacing the executive director and other managers has never solved the center’s problems.

“The way we’ve tried to deal with it for 25 years is change of leadership, and it doesn’t work,” Reilly said. “It’s not about an individual. It’s about a culture and a system and a hierarchy, an entire department that’s broken.”

Approving the contract was an urgent need to ensure the safety of York County residents, he said.

Jacqueline Brininger, director of the 911 center, did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Over the next six months, IXP will address customer engagement with law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services; review policies and procedures for best practices; review computer technology, training processes and quality assurance; and develop a new administrative reporting structure.

Hoke, the only sitting commissioner up for reelection on Nov. 5, said he was astonished when he learned the contract price.

Hoke supported the original contract with IXP, which was an operational audit that cost $116,000.

“They are a company that owns and operates 911 centers in different states, and I was fine with having a new set of eyes and ears come in and talk to our first responders,” he said.

But Hoke thought the commissioners could take the best ideas from the IXP report and from an in-house report prepared by the current management to find a solution, he said.

And police chiefs, firefighters and other first responders have told Hoke that things are improving at the 911 center, he said.

“Things have been improving, but it hasn’t been enough,” said Byrnes.

Past commissioners delayed too long to do something about the 911 center, Byrnes said, and the current board has spent the past three years meeting with 911 center employees and reviewing reports to figure out what needs to be done.

“Now we have all the information, and corrective action has to start immediately,” she said, rather than wait until the new board takes office in January. Several candidates for the county board asked commissioners Wednesday to table the contract until the new members were seated.  

When she first saw the price of the new IXP contract, Byrnes said she thought it was expensive. But only two other companies, both very small, responded to the county’s request for qualifications, she said, and neither were as qualified for the job as IXP.

Byrnes will sit on a committee with Kristy Bixler, York County’s deputy administrator and director of human resources, and Joseph Sassano, director of information technology. The committee will meet weekly with IXP leadership to track the company’s progress.

If the board  isn’t satisfied with IXP’s performance, the county can terminate the contract, Byrnes said.

“I’m going to go to bed at night feeling like we did the right thing,” Reilly said. “I’m very optimistic that IXP is going to, once and for all, put the department on the right course, and I’m very comfortable with the vote that I made on Wednesday.”

IXP begins its consulting work Monday.