The current 911 system in Scioto County is so antiquated that if you called 911 from your cell phone, dispatchers would have to track you down with their paper mapping system, losing valuable minutes and maybe being the difference between life and death.
That’s why Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini is asking the Scioto County Commissioners to allow him to update the 911 system. The new system carries two price tags $668,100 if it is purchase is made on payments of $11,000 per month. If the county pays cash, the system could be purchased for $516,482. Donini will recommend paying cash because it would save the county $152,000.
“I’m even going to go one step further,” Donini said. “I’m going to propose to them (commissioners) that I’ll pay $116,000 of that. So that’s going to leave them with a total of about $400,000 and the way I’m going to pay for that is, I have a revenue source where everybody’s cell phone gets taxed like 25 cents per bill. The revenue is sent to us every month and it’s placed in a 911 wireless account.
“The sheriff’s office, Frontier, and the County Commissioners all had a meeting four to six weeks ago,” Donini told the Daily Times in an exclusive interview. “During that meeting I had let the board know that we had contacted Frontier about upgrading to the newest 911 system, what the cost would be and the reason why we need to do this.”
The reason for the new system is easy – it’s antiquated. It is 10 years old and it is operating from a Windows XP operating system which Microsoft no longer services.
“We could be in trouble if it goes down,” Donini said. “That’s why I’m getting ready to put the letter together and I’m going to request that the board of Commissioners accept the proposal and execute the documents required in order to get this process started.”
The current system is so old, when you call 911 on a cell phone; dispatchers only get which tower the cell phone you’re closest to. Donini said, at times the longitude and latitude will show up on the screen, but that still requires going into the county’s mapping system to find out where that particular longitude and latitude location is.
“If you are in the middle of a field you’re not going to get a house number,” Donini said. “If you’re in front of a particular house, you’re going to get the address of that house because that’s where the longitude and the latitude are. If you’re calling from a landline the first screen that comes up tells you who are making the call and the exact location.”
The problem is that many people have done away with their landline service.
The new 911 system will bring new and improved features not utilized by the old system.
“My understanding is that there will be texting availability, at some point they’re talking that maybe it will get photos,” Captain Shawn Sparks said. “If someone is driving down the road and they see a train crash or tanker turned over, they can take a picture of the template on the back and send it to us.”
Sparks said, also with the system, when a fire department clears a call and goes back to the station, they can get on their website and get on the sheriff’s website and download dispatch times and traffic.
“We’re also going to have them come down and train us on this new equipment as well,” Sparks said. “We’ll probably have a couple of our dispatchers train and they can train the other dispatchers and myself.”
Donini said Frontier could most likely start the process of installing the new 911 system within 60-90 days.
Donini recently had a new MARCS radio system installed which would greatly improve communications between the office and vehicles as well as area fire departments. But there has been a slight bump in the road that has occurred since installing the new $250,000 MARCS system.
“We encountered another problem after we did our MARCS radio,” Donini said. “And the problem we encountered was the consoles. We’re having a problem with those consoles because they’re 10 years old. They’re all computerized. They’re all operating off Windows XP, and we’ve already taken care of it. The commissioners are not aware of that. I’ve already pooled the money and in order to replace those two consoles with new Motorola consoles, the bottom line is $94,000. It’s done. The money is in place. I’ve moved the money. We’re doing it.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.