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Archive for Friday, January 13, 2012

Lawrence, Douglas County emergency dispatch operation needs $7 million in upgrades

Lori Alexander works at her dispatcher station in a secure area of the Judicial & Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St., in this 2009 file photo. Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said Friday he’s recommending the city of Lawrence and Douglas County come up with $7 million in the near future to help the center that handles 911 calls and other emergency communications meet new federal technology standards.

Lori Alexander works at her dispatcher station in a secure area of the Judicial & Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St., in this 2009 file photo. Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said Friday he’s recommending the city of Lawrence and Douglas County come up with $7 million in the near future to help the center that handles 911 calls and other emergency communications meet new federal technology standards.

January 13, 2012

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Calls of distress usually come into the city and county’s emergency dispatch center. Now, a $7 million call is being made from the center to local government officials.

Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said Friday he’s recommending the city of Lawrence and Douglas County come up with $7 million in the near future to help the center that handles 911 calls and other emergency communications meet new federal technology standards.

“Most of the equipment in there is 15 or 16 years old and just needs to be replaced,” Weinaug said.

Some of the equipment must be replaced, Weinaug said. New federal regulations will shift emergency communications to a new frequency, in part, to make it easier for law enforcement agencies and first responders across the country to communicate. Weinaug said the new frequency will mean completely new equipment in some cases. But part of the $7 million project also is to pay for general upgrades to the center that make sense to do as part of the project.

“It would be wasting money in the long run to not do everything else we need to do,” Weinaug said. “If we don’t do it now, we’ll be coming back later to do it.”

But money in the short-run may be an issue. Weinaug is proposing that the city pay $4.62 million of the estimated $7 million cost. The county would pay the rest. The split is based on an agreement the city and county has for paying operating expenses of the center. Under the agreement, the city pays 66 percent of the operating expenses of the center, and the county pays 34 percent. But the agreement does not technically cover capital improvements, such as the equipment upgrades.

Weinaug said he wants to reach an agreement with the city in the coming weeks in order to be able issue debt while interest rates are extremely low. Weinaug said he believes the county can refinance some existing debt and add on its share of the dispatch center upgrade without raising the property tax mill levy.

But City Manager David Corliss said he’s not ready for the city to commit to anything yet. He said his staff will study the issue, but he’s not yet ready to say that city should pick up $4.62 million worth of the cost.

“As I’ve told Craig, I have none of this budgeted,” Corliss said. “We’ll just have to take a look at this and see what the city’s funding sources are and what the county’s funding sources are.”

A $4.62 million expenditure likely would put a strain on other areas of city government. The city has a general rule of thumb that it can issue $5 million worth of debt in any one year without raising its property tax rate, Corliss said.

Weinaug said he thinks the proposed funding split between the city and the county is equitable. He said about 80 percent of the emergency calls handled at the center come from inside the city of Lawrence.

He also said it is clear that operating a joint city-county center is less expensive than each entity operating its own facility.

Weinaug said he believes planning for the upgrade needs to begin now because the project could take two years to design and construct.

Comments

sunny 2 years, 7 months ago

Ditch the library plan! We can't afford it right now! The City of Lawrence needs to balance the check book!

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lunacydetector 2 years, 7 months ago

will they be getting a $5000 plasma t.v. again?

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triplegoddess13 2 years, 7 months ago

Actually that TV belongs to Emergency Management, which is not part of the dispatch center.

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somebodynew 2 years, 7 months ago

Very good point, tg_13, and one that gets lost in all the hype. But, it does lead to a question or two: How much else is EM that gets lost in the shuffle?? If part of this equipment is EM then should the county be paying more?? Should EM be buying their own "stuff: ?? What else in the dispatch remodel from years ago was combined with EM??

I am not trying to be negative, it is just I hadn't really thought of that part before and don't know the answers. Or is Dispatch just a part of EM (or visa versa)?? I know Dispatch is not a part of them, but how are the budgets/equipment handled ??

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brewmaster 2 years, 7 months ago

The city or rather the people that manage the city of Lawrence are willing, able and eager to skirt public money directly to private developers. However, they say that they are "not ready for the city to commit to anything" that benefits the public at large.

In other words, malfeasance for private enrichment is the priority.

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jmadison 2 years, 7 months ago

The FCC mandated a change in the radio spectrum bandwith used by emergency management in 2004. This rule was to be completed by the end of 2012. http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/techtopics/techtopics16.html

Has there been planning for the implementation of this rule in the past 7 years?

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sunny 2 years, 7 months ago

Govt mandate equates to tax increase! Obama promised not to raise taxes....

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werekoala 2 years, 7 months ago

Aaand... You're insane.

This has been in the works since the early 2000s, at least. The date has been pushed back several times to allow local governments more time to prepare.

But if you like having a cellphone, iPad, and all the other wireless technologies that have exploded over the last decade, you have to be willing to slice the spectrum thinner. Which in turn means you have to upgrade equipment that was designed before Bluetooth was anything more than a nasty dental problem.

But by all means, don't let objective reality stand between you and your tenuous ability to blame Barracks Hussein FartBongo for anything that ever went wrong.

No one whines as much as a Rugged Individualist...

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beaujackson 2 years, 7 months ago

A "showplace" library will be a shinning example how reckless, shortsighted and stupid city commissioners are with taxpayer money.

Libraries will be 21st century dinosaurs, as Lawrence will prove.

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Mike Frizzell 2 years, 7 months ago

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has several talkgroups on the Kansas Statewide Interoperable Communication System (KSICS). Sheriff's Office radio traffic was broadcast on KSICS and the current radio system for about a month in 2011. After that time all radio traffic switched back to the current 800MHz.

There has also been speculation that Douglas County could possibly piggyback with Johnson County's 700MHz P-25 digital system or join KSICS. Either option would require building up that system to compensate for additional users and bandwidth capabilities.

My $.02... Seven-Million seems like a low estimate. Shawnee County was estimating closer to $18 million to make a very similar transition to P-25. I can't remember off the top of my head how much Johnson County spent to implement the 700MHz system.

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