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Old technology delays communications center move
May 11, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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The county’s plan to move its 911 emergency communications center across the hall to larger quarters has been delayed by outmoded technology.

“During the move we discovered the existing radio console that handles all the radio transmissions is essentially on the edge of a complete system failure,” Communications Director Ray Richards told the county board. “The manufacturer told us that model is outdated and they no longer provide technical support or parts. It’s about 13 years old, so in the electronic world it’s in hospice.”

The equipment has been on and operating all those years and Richards said if they unplug the console for the move, it might not come back on.

“If that were to fail, we’d lose all our communications for a period of time,” he told the board. “We’re working with the sheriff and other agencies to have several mobile command posts that can be deployed to us in the event we were to go down.”

Information Systems Director Chance Florke said the communications center would still be able to handle emergency calls in case of an equipment failure, but much less effectively.

Richards requested permission from the board to seek out suitable equipment to replace the existing technology. He also said the lowest price might not necessarily be the best choice for the communications center’s needs.

“I think it’s very important that we communicate to other cities in the county the costs involved in our ongoing communications,” said County Commissioner Mike Marker. “We need to take into strong consideration the cell phone user fee we talked about earlier.”

Although cost estimates for a new console could go as high as $500,000, Commissioner Ken Meyer said they have no choice. “We have to continue keeping the equipment upgraded, whether we pay for it out of property taxes or user fees.”

Richards said the investment would pay for a complete system, with servers and computer call stations, plus training for the dispatchers.

“Computers themselves aren’t that expensive anymore,” he said. “The major cost is in the software, licensing and support.”

Florke estimated it could take up to six months to install new equipment and move the com center into its new quarters.
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