July 28--The joint city-county 911 Advisory Board voted Wednesday to spend $115,000 to upgrade its backup 911 phone system in the Daviess County Courthouse.
According to 911 dispatch center Director Paul Nave, the secondary Zetron-made system is no longer being supported and parts can no longer be obtained from the manufacturer.
"To get a brand-new system, it would easily cost $300,000 to $400,000," Nave said.
The newer primary 911 system -- made by a different company called Solacom -- is at the Owensboro Police Department, but a backup is maintained at the Courthouse as a failsafe.
Nave recommended bringing over extra equipment from OPD and adding legal licenses to reduce the cost. It also puts both systems under the same company.
Nave said the city-county dispatch center receives an average of 70,000 emergency 911 calls a year and 85,000 nonemergency calls a year.
"Most major cities usually have a backup 911 system," Nave said. "With the call volume that we have, we've got to have another (system)."
The Advisory Board, which has representatives from law enforcement, fire and 911 dispatch, receives its funding from what the city and county collect from 911 user charges on landlines and cellphones. However, both city and county governments also supplement the 911 service with local tax dollars.
The city of Owensboro is responsible for 75 percent and Daviess Fiscal Court pays the remaining 25 percent of the 911 budget, which is nearly $2.3 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year. Of that $2.3 million, about $995,000 will come from the city and county coffers.
The landline fee -- set by local governments -- is $1.25, with 100 percent of it going toward the 911 fund. The state dictates the post-paid monthly cellphone fee that's set at 70 cents. But only 48 cents of it goes into local 911 funds.
Nave said the decrease in landlines has negatively affected 911 budgets set up to help offset equipment, training and manpower costs needed to run the public safety service.
"In 2000, only 15 percent of my calls were wireless," Nave said. "But in 16 years, it's flipped 100 percent. The generation now will never have a landline."
During its 2016 session, the Kentucky legislature passed House Bill 585 that will add 93 cents to prepaid wireless plans at point-of-sales transactions. It was done to generate more money for 911 services. The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, will also return about 48 cents per customer to local 911 centers.
The current 911 fund has a surplus of $195,000 but will have close to $400,000 by the end of August, making the upgrade affordable.
The old system will be declared surplus and put up for sale.
Sheriff Keith Cain, a member of the 911 board, said a smaller city or county could want it for parts.
"If we get $500 out of it, that's $500 we didn't have," Cain said.
Nave estimated the upgrade will be good for at least five years. And by receiving the go-ahead from the board, Nave will be signing the contract with Solacon within a month.
Nave said his approach with 911, and the safety it provides to the community, is to be proactive.
"No one wakes up any day saying they're going to call 911," Nave said. "But when you do call 911, you want it to be there for you."
Don Wilkins, email@example.com, 270-691-7299, Twitter: @DonWilkinsMI
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