Morgan Co. 911 Board chairman pushing for combined dispatch

By Nick Kovatch on October 14 at 1:56pm

The head of the Morgan County 911 Board says the county could be saving tens of thousands of dollars with a combined dispatch center.

Morgan County 911 is responsible for providing dispatch centers at the Jacksonville Police Department, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and Passavant Area Hospital the technology to receive 911 calls and determine where the call is coming from. Morgan County 911 chairman Richard Evans says the organization is planning to replace outdated equipment. Part of the upgrades would include a wireless link system, so dispatchers don’t have to depend on less-reliable leased phone lines.

Evans says the total cost of the project comes in at about $367,000.

“That was more than I think some of the board members wanted to spend,” says Evans. “So, for at least two months we’ve been reviewing our options. I will tell you the critical thing here is we’ve got three 911 [public-safety access points] at Morgan County [Sheriff’s Office], Jacksonville [Police Department], and Passavant…This figure is why somebody in this county has got to get serious about combined dispatch and stop all the political problems between it.”

He says Morgan County 911 board members want to know the potential short-term and long-term savings of a combined dispatch before voting to move forward with the upgrades.

“The 911 board is paying Morgan County and Jacksonville PSAP’s $60,000 a year per center for administration and operational cost,” says Evans. “Right there, if the board says we’re going to look for one center to handle the calls then maybe we can save $50,000 or $60,000 a year.”

“We’re trying to look to see where we can save some money because every time the city, the county, and Passavant comes to us for a piece of equipment we can no longer buy it,” says Evans. “We won’t have the funds. We’ll be broke.”

Evans says funding for 911 comes from charges to cell phones and landline phones. Morgan County 911 gets about one-dollar per month for each landline, but only half of that for cell phones, and Evans points out there are more cell phones than landlines today.

“So, we’ve seen a decrease in our income,” says Evans. “We haven’t seen a decrease in the Frontier bills for operation. I think the 911 board is sitting here saying ‘We went out for this project to replace all this equipment but we’re still funding three dispatch centers and that’s not cost effective anymore’.”

The idea of a combined dispatch center has been discussed for several years in Morgan County, but a location has never been decided.

There is hope that a combined dispatch center can be built in the proposed FutureGen training and visitors center at Community Park, although discussions are preliminary and the building won’t be complete until 2015.

Jacksonville city leaders say new communication equipment currently being installed at the police department could be moved and become the centerpiece of a combined dispatch location.

If combined dispatch at the FutureGen building doesn’t come to fruition, community leaders say they don’t have any other backup plans for a different location.