Five County Commissioners to Cities: 911 Is Your Problem, Not Ours



Sometimes, one vote does matter.  Today, we learned the hard way.  The decade-long effort to regionalize 911 dispatch communications FAILED.

Given the opportunity to re-think their vote and consider the Implementation Board’s response to the defective Municipal Services Taxing Unit/Interlocal Agreement County proposal, five County Commissioners voted against the recommendations of their own Implementation Board and that which cities representing 87% of Broward’s population practically begged them to implement.

What appeared to be the motive of commissioners: How much pain each city should feel.

What they really should have considered: Thousands of delayed emergency 911 calls and tens of millions of dollars wasted annually.

Thankfully, Commissioner Lois Wexler, Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief, and Commissioners Marty Kiar and Dale Holness voted to fund this like a true regional service.

But, that wasn’t enough.

The no votes: Mayor Kristin Jacobs, Commissioner Chip Lamarca, Commissioner Suzanne Gunzburger, Commissioner Stacy Ritter and Commissioner Tim Ryan.

Five-to-four against a proposal to give us the best and most stable 911 system, while saving money in the future, too.


Same Problems Today, Same Solutions for Tomorrow


I have already written on the dangers and delays from misdirected 911 calls.   Everyone knows about this dangerous gap in public safety.  To make matters worse, we are wasting taxpayer money paying for too many centers across the County, with a patchwork of public safety interoperability.

After a decade of feasibility studies, reports, meetings, evidence gathered and recommendations, and the well-identified funding chaos initiated by the County, the County Commission’s Implementation Board recommended (a) funding for the Regional E911 system must be stable, predictable and secure from the political and financial instability of 31 different municipalities; and (b) funding, therefore, must be through regional countywide ad valorem.

We fund REGIONAL libraries and REGIONAL parks through countywide ad valorem.  We don’t send bills to each city budget to fund these.   Then again, no one ever died from a delay in finding a book on a shelf or a line too long into a regional park.

Here’s the kicker: turns out the County Commissioners have been paying $19,000,000 to supplement the BSO budget for contract cities’ dispatch communications.

That’s right …. BSO contracted with cities to provide services, but County General Fund dollars have been paid to BSO to make up for not billing cities.   For those who do not contract with BSO, that is YOUR county property tax money diverted by the County Commissioners to supplement BSO contracts.

The Contract Cities say, “Hey, when we contracted for BSO, we assumed they would actually be sent to calls, so we believe the contract covers dispatch services.”  Problem is, the County sent bills in 2011 saying otherwise … and now everyone is gonna lawyer up.


Political Myopia Dominates the Analysis


The solution was simple.  In achieving this public safety improvement and projected $100,000,000 savings over the next decade, regionalization results in a potential increase of .2 mills on the County bill while saving more money for the residents and cities.   This potential increase assumes property values do not rise at all to help cover the gap.  In exchange, the County and all taxpayers save real dollars on operational costs and future upgrades, avoid the significant costs to build regional centers already built by cities, and develop a legacy of improving public safety regionally.

Instead, the County now wants cities that are not paying for communications separately to agree to a Municipal Services Taxing Unit proposal, increasing the millage on cities.  For residents in those cities that have their own dispatch services, they will want a refund from the County of the tens of millions of dollars given away year after year to BSO by the County Commission.

Had the County followed the recommendations from a decade ago, we would have already saved minutes on tens of thousands of 911 emergency calls and tens of millions of dollars during the worst of times.

Sadly, chaos in the funding and administration of E911 will persist and political myopia will cloud our vision and legacy for the future.

(Broward County Consolidate Communications Committee was co-chaired by Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler and Mayor Mike Ryan of Sunrise.)  


16 Responses to “Five County Commissioners to Cities: 911 Is Your Problem, Not Ours”

  1. LaMarca the 5th says:

    Is it true LaMarca was the 5th vote on this?

    Buddy in the big picture obviously this was about 911 but you know it is all about the details. The 5 who voted against this did not want to have to have the County say they as a governing body were going to raise taxes for 911 they wanted to force the cities to have to go their voters and say the city commisioners were raising taxes. LaMarca has made it clear in his tenure he would not raise taxes and obviously he refuses to do so even in the face of a crumbling 911 system which puts lives at risk.
    Sadly, LaMarca will not vote for a “tax” to help everyone calling 911, but when his pal Dale Holness and Lauderdale Lakes called 911 to the County Commission for funds to pay their BSO bill, Chip had no problem with that. Of course helping Lauderdale Lakes had nothing to do with the potential of Holness to get black Democrat activists leaders in Deerfield to support Chip in reelection…. nah never, lol.

  2. Emily Rubin says:

    The Mayor doth protest too much. Or, he has let his big ego get in the way again.
    If it is so important to the Cities to have a regional 911 dispatch system, then why don’t the Cities kick in their 40% contribution in the proposal approved by the commission majority? The County offered to pay 60% of the cost. The County isn’t jeopardizing public safety. Hot heads like Mayor Ryan are. They want the Commissioners to be blamed for a tax increase. Mayor, if this program is so important, take the heat and do the right thing, pay your part of the cost.

  3. Jo Miller says:

    Buddy: Why do you continue to give Mayor Blowhard of Sunrise a forum?

  4. taxpayer says:

    With 2 of ther 5 NO votes term limited, their motivation to obstruct this defies any logic. A complete lack of leadership. And to think Jacobs fancied herself as a rep in WashDC. With votes of “Present”.
    If a tragedy occurs and a plaintiff’s attorney sues, the cities involved and the county will use our tax dollars to settle out of court like they do every other case brought before them.
    Ryan probably cut a deal with Fort Lauderdale because they use the 911 as revenue stream and continue to hire dispaters. Lamarca will not be on BCC come Nov 2014

  5. Mayor Mike Ryan says:

    Ms. Rubin:

    I do not think we have met. To have picked up on the 60/40 proposal, you must have been watching today or in attendance or you read the supplemental Commission information that came out yesterday. Because you have been following the details closely, you would know the following as well:

    As to cities paying their part of the costs, let me point out the cities built the current dispatch centers being considered … not the County as was recommended a decade ago. Instead, the Cities spent millions already.

    In addition, those with dispatch centers and some others have being paying more than our fair share of the costs for a very long time. Turns out, according to the County Commissioners (not me), they have been giving BSO $19,000,000 to supplement BSO contracts with other cities. That means our residents have had their tax dollars diverted to BSO for some select cities.

    Here is the issue going forward : will a City who believes their communications costs are covered by a BSO contract (even though the County says they are paying $19,000,000 to supplement those contracts) agree to raise taxes on their residents for the service they believe they are paying for now? Answer: Not without a Court order saying their communications costs are not covered by their contract OR BSO reducing their contract by the exact amount of the MSTU commitment EVERY year.

    For cities with dispatch centers, how can they agree to give up their centers without knowing who is joining? Or what the costs are projected to be based upon the numbers who join? When do we reach the point that fixed costs are met through economies of scale and our variable costs rise? And, when do residents with dispatch centers get the refund of their taxes “mis-directed” to BSO?

    What does the County do if the dispatch centers presently chosen decide not to join, and instead reduce their costs by contracting out space to others or dispatching for others? Does the County go out and spend the tens of millions of dollars already spent by cities to build replacement brick and mortar? What does that do to the 60/40 costs?

    Remember, since you are well informed, the County is already obligated by Charter for paying ALL of the infrastructure costs for every dispatch center — every console, every piece of hardware, and all the upgrades for the Centers and frontline fire vehicles. All of those costs are covered by the County now and for the future expensive upgrades. That is no incentive for centers with a dispatch center to fold up and donate it to the County.

    So, this is not about my ego, but rather what is state of affairs based upon years of financial and administrative chaos not created by any of us presently discussing the mess. We should be thinking about what is best for the entire County and what will ensure the E911 system is insulated as much as possible from financial and political instability of cities.

    This is not just my opinion, but the opinion of the County’s Implementation Board and cities representing 87% of the population.

  6. TamaracResident says:

    It is my understanding that a few cities were strongly against this, do we know which ones and why?

  7. taxpayer says:

    To clarify in my comment, ‘ryan’ referred to the commissioner, NOT Mayor Mike Ryan of Sunrise.
    The cities that currently have ‘in-house’ dispatch for lack of better term, have revenue stream, equipment purchases, employees, “Recovery Fees” for Fire Dispatch that they will likely not hav if merged county-wide. The 3 call centers the consolidation would use appear to be in Sunrise, Hollywood (or south county) and one other whose location I do not recall. These rogue cities defying consolidation are NOT a Cat5 compliant call center so they will not be a BSO call center. With Coconut Creek coming on line with their new public safety to Cat 5 standards, there will likely be more jockeying the longer this is delayed. And from today’s BCC comments and discussion it sounds like end of 2014 if taxpayers are lucky. When the 2 term limited girls are gone, and Lamarca. Lets start interviewing sensible candidates to run for BCC.

  8. Spectator says:

    How disappointing the very same people who are obligated to represent us properly once again FAILED. Failed to support a concept that we the voters asked for so many years ago.
    What are we the people asking for a stronger 911 base ? A more sustainable system ? Putting some folks bad behavior aside I would only ask why wouldn’t you want that? Why would you insult someone who is trying to make a difference for all ? Do you ignore the idea that we the people asked for this ? You can ignore the obvious until it directly effects your very life. Maybe the system isn’t going to change even though we ask for this implementation.
    That doesn’t change the fact that that there is a probability that it could save time, lives and money for all. Change is never easy but it is always necessary.

  9. Ever quotable Lamarca says:

    Looks below like LaMarca told Mayor Ryan to kiss is ass…

    Broward Politics‏@browardpolitics9h
    @ChipsterFL Question: Why did you say the 911 idea is likely “dead” when you didn’t vote for it? ?? Confused. – Britt

    Chip LaMarca‏@ChipsterFL8h
    @browardpolitics The 31 city policy makers need to come to the table so we can save the people $5M instead of raising taxes!

    LaMarca on Lauderdale Lakes…

    Broward Politics‏@browardpolitics10h
    LaMarca: I don’t think that city’s insolvent. Almost. (Lauderdale Lakes) – Britt

    So Chip my good Republican friend why is it again, you are giving a bailout to Lauderdale Lakes when you believe it is almost insolvent?

  10. Emily Rubin says:

    To Mayor Ryan @5,

    Thank you for your responses. Perhaps you should re-read what you wrote. You made my argument. If you really cared about public safety insead of your big ego, you would contribute the 40%.

  11. TamaracResident says:

    One needs to understand that there could still be issues of 911 service at any point of entry to and from Broward county. There was a case where the county’s 911 service screwed up a call that was between two counties (I believe in N. Florida), and one of the county’s dispatchers were all very old women who botched the call. Why not set up a state-wide system? Or a federal system?

  12. One term commish,Lamarca says:

    Everyone knows that Chippy Lamarca is running scared because his reelection is almost impossible with the new districts and he needs the paycheck. Several Dems have expressed an interest in taking him on but it looks like he will face only one contender with name recognition, money, and connections. Running to Holness and cutting a deal is desperation and it will never work. I thought he had promise originally, but he turned out be be arrogant, and lacking in intelligence. Cant wait to see him gone.

  13. Ryan n Lamarca to FLL F-Off says:


    You should get the list from Mike Ryan of what cities are getting 911 at a discount or for free.

    I hear cities like Dania Beach, Lighthouse Point, Oakland Park and Deerfield get theirs for a discount or for free. While Fort Lauderdale pays more than its sahre.

    So under the 60/40 plan put forward by the County Commission, it would appear LaMarca and Ryan had no problem stiffing Fort Lauderdale because their hometowns LHP and Dania have no interest in paying going from nothing or a reduced rate for 911 to paying 40%.

    Remember that Fort Lauderdale when these two guys are on the ballot.

  14. Rattle Snake Jake says:

    Keep it up Mayor Ryan. Remember Ritter’s vote was strictly personal. This is what you get when you fire a county commissioner’s husband and friends.

  15. Emily "Stuck on 60/40" Rubin says:

    Ms. Rubin,
    You appear to be stuck on the 60/40 issue while completely ignoring the fact that many cities have already paid millions on call centers while other cities have paid nothing. Why should one city and its residents pay 40% of anything when others have been paying nothing for years. Does that seem fair to you?
    Since this concept is so obvious, I have to wonder what your real motivations for criticizing it are. Do you live in one of the non-paying cities? Are you an incognito county commissioner?

  16. Gavin Alford says:

    I certainly don’t wish any misfortune upon anyone, but should anyone die because of this political behavior, I sure hope the elected individuals involved suffer the full wrath of the judicial system for at least negligent homicide. Just my opinion.