07/15/11 — Wayne County weighs building 911 center

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Wayne County weighs building 911 center

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 15, 2011 1:46 PM

Wayne County could be ready within the next 30 to 45 days to embark on a $600,000 project to build a 911 emergency call center that would be ready for operation by next spring.

Originally the county had planned on building a backup facility for the existing 911 center. However, as planning progressed, it began to make more sense to build a new center on property already owned by the county, County Manager Lee Smith said.

It made sense because 911 money is available that should pay most of the cost and because the volume of calls has increased so drastically, he said.

Also, it provides an opportunity to build a site that can house the hardware to back up and store the county's critical data, Smith said.

"As you move through 911 and some of the things that have happened, obviously you have to have redundant or backup systems because if you don't, and let's say there is a fire or whatever in the area your center is located in, if you don't have a backup center then you could be in tremendous trouble," Smith said. "We have a small backup center now, but it is not sufficient.

"The center that we have now, which is our primary center, has already been there are some years and we are basically overloaded. Wayne County, despite what folks might think, is growing. We are getting more calls. We are looking at possibly adding a new (911 computer) station which means a couple of extra people because our call volume has grown exponentially for four or five years."

Smith said residents are witnessing the county moving from rural to urban.

"I think that is the product of people asking for more services," he said. "We take all of the calls for all of the municipalities, fire departments, rescue, after-hours for water systems, so we take on a lot. There are thousands of calls a month that come into that center."

As the county began looking at the need for a new 911 center and a backup center, the discussion shifted to include a backup for all county services -- finances, phone system, payroll and tax system, Smith said.

"In order to do that, you have got to have a location, well the location would have to be somewhere that is not in the downtown area," he said. "We began looking at sites on existing county property, nothing new, in a secure facility.

"We are beginning to move in the direction of instead of a backup center a new primary center and making the existing one the backup center."

The county also needs administrative space for its emergency management services.

"We are short on space," he said. "That (new center) would answer that question for a number of years, but also having a redundant system for our fiber (optic). We have run fiber throughout the downtown area and outside downtown to the (Sheriff's Office) annex on (U.S.) 117. We will add to that somewhat.

"Now with the new communications system the new computers now with a digital communications system are even more important with having backup electricity, backup generators. I just think we have moved into an era that it is time to do it. This is an opportunity not only to back up 911, but all of our systems."

The county is in the process of getting it all priced out and is preparing plans to see if it can meld all of the components together while looking to relocate the center, he said.

"We would bring in a hardened, secure facility," he said. "You need a certain type roof or ceiling, a certain type of HVAC because of all of the electronic equipment that will be there. Also one that is safe -- a hardened concrete facility that is secure.

"I think that is important because you have such major equipment, a lot of dollar investment in a facility like that. The stuff on the inside is worth more than the building."

Some of the 911 money can be used for only very specific purposes, but Smith said he is hopeful it will pay for the majority of the project. The remainder would come from the county's capital fund.

"That has been our plan to do for several years and some of it is in our operations budget for this year for backup servers and those kinds of things," he said. "We have already identified the money and budgeted for it over the next year or so. I think we are in good shape to pay cash.

"I will reiterate this is part of why we have been saving money is to do these kind of things and that was part of what we had identified in our capital plan. So we are on target."