911 Board Agrees to Pursue Study of System

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Published on October 9 2012 3:08 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 12:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

The Effingham County 911 Board Tuesday agreed to seek a study on the efficiencies of the 911 system.  The study will include a look into the feasibility of switching from two to one dispatching point.

The motion included budgeting up to $65,000 to pay for the study.  A committee to be headed by Norbert Soltwedel will develop a Request for Proposals on the study.  Other committee members are 911 Chairman Nick Althoff and members Ted Heath and Russ Thomas, along with telecommunications coordinator Jodi Moomaw and county 911 telecommunicator supervisor Tina Daniels.

A separate committee made up of city and county officials earlier pursued a consolidation study, but that effort came to a halt.  911 Board members then decided that, since it was a study of their system, they should take the lead.

The vote to pursue the study was unanimous.

Not unanimous was the vote on extending a contract with the City of Effingham and Effingham County for making telecommunicators available to 911.  911 has paid the City and the County each $65,000 to help cover the cost of the telecommunicators for several years.  Now, the price is going up. 

Negotiators for 911, the City and the County agreed to keep the subsidy at $65,000 for the coming year to make sure funds are available for the efficiency study.  However, the subsidy will increase to $85,000 next year and to $86,700 the third year of the agreement, and the subsidy will increase by 2% per year unless one of the parties asks to renegotiate the agreement.

The negotiators for 911 said the initial proposal from the City and the County was for $125,000 each year.

County Emergency Management Agency Director Russ Thomas, a member of the 911 Board, wondered why the price was going up.  Thomas said when the subsidy was originally instituted, the expectation was that the telecommunicators would handle 20 911 calls/hour where the number has instead averaged two calls/hour.  The explanation was that wages for the telecommunicators continue to increase.  911 is not involved in those negotiations.

The vote to approve the agreement was 6-3 in favor, with City Police Chief Mike Schutzbach, Chief Deputy Sheriff John Loy, Altamont Fire Chief Jon Becker, County Board Member Karen Luchtefeld, Effingham City-County Ambulance Operator Terry White and Althoff voting Yes and Thomas and public members Soltwedel and Heath voting No.

The 911 Board also learned that the patch designed to improve communication for officers out on foot patrol is only sometimes working. 

Daniels reported that sheriff's deputies have told her it's not really working the way it's supposed to be performing, that it either works sporadically or not at all.  Loy echoed that, saying he has problems when he works a shift in Teutopolis.  When the committee heard a comment that it was working alright during the day, Daniels said she had an officer on the south end of Effingham during the day and he couldn't hear from Dispatch and they couldn't hear him.

Loy said the County has a separate communications bridge that could be tried if some agency can provide a Starcom mobile radio.  The City and the State police use Starcom, but not the County, and officials say that has caused at least some of the problems.  Randy Neal of Barbeck Communications said Motorola could make a Starcom radio available on a test basis without a licensing fee being required.  The 911 Board will be updated once the bridge is in place.

Board members also placed the tentative fiscal year budget on layover until a final vote next month, and renewed property/casualty insurance coverage with Weis Insurance Agency of Effingham for $14,653, $56 more than last year.