Switch turned on new fiber communications system in Tiffin

Nate Brickner of Bascom Communications flips a switch lighting a green bulb during a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the Seneca County Justice Center signifying the “opening” of a new fiber communication system in Seneca County. Watching are (from left) Commissioner Holly Stacy, Fostoria Mayor Eric Keckler, retired Emergency Services Director Dan Stahl, Commissioner Shayne Thomas, Mayor Aaron Montz, Emergency Services Director Ken Majors and Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Kelbley.

A public-private partnership came together in Seneca County Wednesday afternoon with a switch-flipping ceremony formally marking the “opening” of a fiber communications system.

The fiber system improves the reliability of communications among the dispatch centers at the sheriff’s office, Tiffin and Fostoria police departments and the emergency operations center at the Public Safety Building. Some of the other county offices are connected, and the rest are to be connected soon.

A 20-year, $719,000 lease signed with Bascom Communications in March 2018 started the process of upgrading the county’s internet communication from T1 (telephone-based) lines to fiber technology. The county is leasing several strands of underground fiber within a fiber ring from the company to create a private network for the county.

The underground system was installed by Ken Myers Construction, Green Springs.

The system could be further upgraded with more equipment in the future.

The lease was paid in advance from the county’s General Fund, and is to be repaid over time by the 9-1-1 Fund. The fund collects about $115,000 annually from cell phone bills in the county.

“A life connected,

a county connected,

collaborative partners woven together by a secure fiber, quietly lying below the surface, protecting, informing, uniting, connecting,” said Commissioner Shayne Thomas in his opening remarks. “Technology infrastructure investment is an example of good government, silent, transparent, shared, long lasting.”

Thomas said roads, bridges and buildings are visible expressions of tax money spent, but the communication system works unseen.

“A climate-controlled secure server room with generator backup doesn’t glow like the lights of the tower,” Thomas said. “But it does illuminate the essential work of the county.

“With this investment, our county looks to the future, not just an inclusive, forward-leaning community but one with cutting-edge technology infrastructure,” he said.

Nate Brickner of Bascom Communications said the idea was started when Dan Stahl, now retired, was emergency services coordinator. He said officials in other areas are looking to Seneca County’s system to emulate in their own systems.

“Dan Stahl was the visionary behind this,” said Emergency Services Director Ken Majors.

He said the county is now a safer place because of collaboration.

“Everything is seemless,” he said.

Tiffin Police Chief Fred Stevens said the system already has improved communications in the county’s multi-jurisdictional system.

“Not all counties this small can have this kind of technology,” said Jake Schaaf of Buckeye IT, who has been handling technology for the county for 15 years.

Schaaf said the former T1 system was similar to a system of one-way streets where communication speed was limited, but the new system is more like a highway with several lines of communication going in each direction.

“Now it’s more like Interstate 270 going around Columbus, without the orange barrels,” he said.

Schaaf said the system is the type usually found in large cities. Information and data is more secure.

Commissioner Holly Stacy said she remembers when members of the county’s IT Committee were wondering five years ago if they would be retired before they saw a system like this in place.

Stacy introduced Lu Anne Cooke from Lt. Gov. John Husted’s office, who read a proclamation from Husted’s office. Cooke said Seneca County’s communication system is “miles ahead” of other communities in Ohio.