An Illinois law passed last year mandates the remaining eleven counties that don’t have the service- Greene being one of them- to make some sort of 9-1-1 service available to people living and working in the county.
Greene County Sheriff Rob McMillen, one of six members of a committee formed to look into the issue, says anyone in the county that dials 9-1-1 on a landline currently gets relayed to the sheriff’s office, but the dispatcher doesn’t have access to important information, like the caller’s address.
“Right now, we just have county road numbers. In the towns are petty simple, they have street names and house numbers and things like that. But, once you get out in the rural area, everything’s a rural route and a box number,” explains McMillen.
“Someone will have to come in and map the whole county and assign street names to the rural roads, and then work with the postal services to get house numbers for each of those rural residences. When someone’s out in the country, no one knows how to get there. You can’t put it in to a GPS system unless you get good directions or actually know the people. It delays our response time,” he adds.
McMillen adds if someone calls 9-1-1 in the county on a cell phone, the service they get depends on what cell tower to which they are bounced.
He says Greene County should have had this in place in the early 90s when there was a referendum, but that it didn’t pass. Now, the state is forcing the issue.
“We had to join an existing 9-1-1 area. We couldn’t do it on our own like we could have back in the early 90s. Morgan County has it, Macoupin, Scott, and Jersey are all 9-1-1 counties. So, we’re going to have to join or having our 9-1-1 system by administered by one of those counties. The only county right now that’s showing any interest in taking on the responsibilities for Greene County is Jersey,” McMillen says.
Calhoun County, one of the other counties without its own 911 service, could also join.
Greene County has until next summer to join an existing service. McMillen says a plan has to be ready by this summer.
He says the law passed last year pays for the eleven counties to get 9-1-1 service through tax revenue collected from landline and cell phone users.