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Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014

911 hub planning continues

Friday, November 30, 2007

Scott County commission news

BENTON -- Scott County commissioners are moving forward with their plan to make the county a regional 911 center.

During Thursday's meeting, County Developer Joel Evans presented the commission with a draft of a letter he plans to send to other counties and municipalities about contracting services, to gauge interest.

"This is very preliminary," said Jamie Burger, presiding commissioner. "This is just the way we get started."

Around the state, counties and municipalities are for the most part operating in the red when it comes to their 911 systems. Ron McCormick, county commissioner who also serves as a liaison with the county's 911 system, said that's due to "a lack of landlines, and more people going to cell phones."

In Missouri, there is no cell phone tax for 911 -- and it is one of few states without such a tax. For the past few years, municipalities have asked for that,

but McCormick said the state legislature is "very much against doing that."

Instead, members of legislature have suggested counties and municipalities work together and combine services, like what Scott County is proposing. "As far as I know, nobody has done it yet," said McCormick.

Burger estimated that in three to five years, other entities will hit the same crunch Scott County has, with less funds and more expenses. "What we're doing now will take place in every small area across the state," he said. "We owe it to the voters and we owe it to the county to make it solid.

Some entities they have spoken to are pleased with their 911 and have no desire to contract services. "And that's fine," said McCormick.

But some are quite interested. For instance, McCormick said he discussed the plan with Pemiscot County commissioners at a Missouri Association of Counties conferences last week.

"Pretty much all three of them said 'Where do we sign up?'" McCormick said.

He noted a big misconception residents may have is that it will take longer to dispatch if they are calling to another county.

"But it doesn't matter if you're 100 miles away from that call center, you still get the same service you would get if you are five miles away," he said. Contracted services will only pertain to the call center.

"They would still be in charge of their addressing," Burger added.

"The economy of scale of a communications center with large call volumes has a distinct advantage over multiple low volume centers," Evans stated in the letter. "Modern communication and mapping technology would easily allow for a 911 center to be geographically removed from the call area."

McCormick and Burger also noted that Scott County has state-of-the-art 911 equipment and excellent employees. There is also excess capacity.

"Some of these counties would benefit a whole lot if we pool our services together," said McCormick.

If enough municipalities join together, McCormick said "hopefully we can operate in the black, be self-sustaining and actually have an excess amount of money."

That would allow for further upgrades, which are usually needed about once a decade.

The staff could be even better, too, because, McCormick said, it's difficult to allow staff to go to trainings for extended periods now, because comp time quickly builds up.

Commissioners urged that any entity interested in contracting services contact them. They need responses by Dec. 20, so meetings can be schedule and the plan for a regional center to move forward.