It is happening sooner than Barton County officials were expecting or wanting, but the upgrade to the latest Next Generation 911 system will take place in the coming months. The County Commission approved the $104,000 conversion Monday morning.
While the county has been working toward moving to a NG911 system, it was anticipated that the conversion would take place no earlier than 2017, County Administrator Richard Boeckman said. However, with the failure of an existing analog server, it has been determined that NG911 should be installed as soon as possible.
“This is a complicated and involved process,” Boeckman said.
The current analog system was installed in 2010, he said. “It was state of the art.”
However, things in the tech world travel at break-neck speed.
“Unfortunately, that system is now outdated,” he said. Not only is it having frequent maintenance problems, it is not compatible with new digital and telephone networks.
“I’ve known for some time this conversion would be necessary,” Boeckman said. It was planned for 2017, but the current increasing unreliable 911 server is forcing the change more quickly.
There is enough county 911 tax money to cover the cost. There will be a 10 percent increase in 911 fees to cover the continued maintenance.
Unlike the existing server which is owned by the county, the new system will be leased from AT&T which will be compatible with NG911 installation statewide. This will be advantageous to the county since the company will be responsible for taking care of the equipment and upgrading it when needed, Boeckman said.
Put simply, NG 911 is an internet protocol (IP)-based system that allows digital information (e.g., voice, photos, videos, text messages) to flow seamlessly from the public, through the 911 network, and on to emergency responders.
Now, the county will send a service order request form to the statwide NG911 organization. It and AT&T will then evaluate the Barton County communications center.
After this is done, AT&T will send contract to Barton County, which must have commission approval. The county will get on schedule to have the system installed.
There is no specific date for this, but Boeckman and AT&T both want this to happen sooner rather than later. He hopes it will be done by the spring of next year.
As noted earlier, the server at 911 has failed. In order to effectively run the county’s current 911 system, AT&T has provided a replacement server.
However, the county will be required to pay a maintenance fee. That fee is estimated at a cost of $12,375 for nine months, with the cost being prorated should the equipment be released early.
911 tax funds are available for this cost.
Sure, the new venture is expensive, Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. But, of all the services the county provides, 911 has a direct impact on public safety and must be kept up to date.
The original 911 system was introduced in Barton County in the 1980s as a universal number for reaching emergency assistance.
Located at the corner of Lakin and Stone streets in the AT&T building, the primary function of the Communications Department (911) is the dispatching of emergency services for all of Barton County. The department provides emergency dispatching services for the Barton County Sheriff’s Office; the police departments of Claflin, Ellinwood, Great Bend and Hoisington; the Kansas Highway Patrol; and all fire departments and emergency medical services in the county. It also dispatches for Kansas Wildlife and Parks, Central Kansas Community Corrections and Juvenile Services.
Communications has 15 employees – the director (currently unfilled), two supervisors, and 12 dispatchers. Three dispatchers are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are required to work holidays, and weekends as scheduled.
In addition to providing emergency services, they provide the public with 911 addresses when building a new structure or moving to the Barton County area.
Eventually, the state wants all 911 offices to switch to the NG911 system, Boeckman said.