Douglas County dispatch center wants to switch to new 911 system

In this file photo from March 2016, Randy Roberts, director of the Emergency Communication Center, is pictured at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th Street.

The director of the county emergency dispatch center will request on Wednesday that the Douglas County Commission approve switching to a new 911 service provider.

In a memo to commissioners, Randy Roberts, county emergency communications director, recommends that the county switch from the current 911 service it operates, which is isolated from other cities and counties, to one that the Mid-America Regional Council manages.

Staff in the emergency communications department undertook a review of options in light of an upgrade in a state 911 system that is now becoming operational.

Staff researched keeping the county’s current stand-alone system, switching to the upgraded state 911 service or joining the MARC system.

There are costs associated with all options, Roberts wrote in the memo. The annual cost of the county’s current system is $244,000 to $264,000. The yearly cost of the new state system would initially be $260,000, and the MARC option would be $300,000.

Roberts recommends switching to the MARC option despite the higher cost because of advantages it offers for service, remote access to the system, its reliable backup system and proximity of service technicians.

The switch would address increasing difficulties that Douglas County law enforcement agencies and other first responders have had in communicating with Johnson County 911 systems when requesting mutual aid, Roberts wrote. Forty-four communication centers in nine counties in the Kansas City metropolitan area use the MARC system.

In other business Wednesday, the County Commission will have a 6 p.m. public hearing on a conditional use permit application from O’Connell Youth Ranch to operate an event center. The site on North 1320 Road is just north of the South Lawrence Trafficway on the southeast edge of Lawrence. The applicant plans to add a stage, restrooms and warming kitchen to an existing 4,000-square-foot building to host reunions, weddings, receptions and other special events for up to 218 guests. Other modifications to the site, which currently has a youth group home and administrative ranch, include a new gravel parking lot, gazebo and fire pit.

The application comes to commissioners with planning staff’s recommendation for approval, after staff found the proposal compatible with surrounding land uses.

The Douglas County Commission meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. To view the County Commission’s entire agenda, visit