Moultrie, Shelby counties talk 911 upgrade
SULLIVAN, Mar 10, 2013 (Herald & Review - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Discussions have begun about the possibility of implementing and sharing an enhanced 911 system in Moultrie and Shelby counties.
The Moultrie County Board has been exploring its options for such a system and its accompanying high costs.
Members of the county's Public Health, Safety and Welfare Committee met last week with David Bowers of the Moultrie Independent Telephone Co., which is a member of the Illinois Telecommunications 9-1-1 Committee. Representatives of other area telephone companies, including Frontier and Consolidated Communications, also participated in the meeting.
"It depends on how much work the county wants to put into the system," Bowers said. "The funding mechanism is a huge hurdle."
Moultrie and Shelby counties are among the few in the state that don't operate an enhanced 911 system capable of pinpointing the address of an emergency call for dispatchers. Having such an enhanced system in place is seen as a way to save responders time and allow them to be dispatched to the scene of an emergency more quickly.
Discussions between Moultrie and Shelby county officials started last month and continued with information from Bowers, committee Chairwoman Arlene Aschermann said.
Moultrie County is in a position to implement an enhanced 911 system after completing the process of installing 911 addresses throughout the county. Shelby County is undergoing a similar addressing process with completion anticipated later this year.
The cost of installing and operating an enhanced 911 system remains among the most important unanswered questions, Moultrie County Board Chairman Dave McCabe said.
"We need to know the cost before we can determine if it is feasible," he said.
Bowers said pricing information couldn't be made available without a written request with information about what is being asked for.
Moultrie County voters have in the past rejected adding a surcharge to their phone bills that would help to fund an upgraded 911 system. Surcharges likely wouldn't cover the entire cost of such a system, so board members are considering the possibility of using money from the county's general operating funds to finance the system.
Funding for 911 systems usually comes from charges for the use of landline phones, but Bowers said more cellphones are being used as customers turn away from using landlines.
Representatives from the phone companies in attendance agreed to work together and present the board with a proposal for network configurations of an enhanced 911 system.
Another meeting will be scheduled once the proposal is ready. In the meantime, the Moultrie board is considering an offer from Coles County to answer and dispatch more of its 911 calls, board member Kevin McReynolds said. He said the proposed system would be better than what is currently in place but not be the enhanced system that is under consideration.
Working with Coles County would likely save Moultrie personnel costs but might not give it as much control over the system.
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