MILLEDGEVILLE — City officials are proceeding with the implementation of its own 911 system in order to have all emergency calls originating within city limits going directly to the Milledgeville Police Department (MPD) versus the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office.
“What we would like to see for city residents is for city calls to come into the police department,” said City Manager Barry Jarrett during Wednesday’s City Council work session. “We have contacted Windstream to have phone lines brought directly into the police department so calls originating in the city will go directly to the MPD. The city is funding this at this point.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, Council members and Jarrett went into executive session to receive legal advice regarding the 911 center. MPD Chief Dray Swicord was also allowed in the closed meeting to provide information about the matter.
“The subject matter of what was being discussed from a legal standpoint was something I felt like Council needed to hear from Chief Swicord directly rather than Chief Swicord telling me and then I explain it to Council,” said Jimmy Jordan, city attorney. “In a closed meeting, anybody that is providing information for whatever legal issue we’re discussing is allowed.”
Currently, all city and county emergency calls go through the Baldwin County 911 Center. The county dispatcher must transfer calls within the city limits to the MPD. The MPD dispatcher, who is not able to view caller information on his or her system, asks the same series of questions as the previous county dispatcher, causing a delay in the emergency response time.
“When the [county] transfers the call to our dispatchers, we don’t have caller ID or have the information on our system, so we’re relying on information the [county dispatcher] is viewing,” Swicord said. “Our goal has always been to talk first-hand with callers.”
MPD dispatchers Rosario Carranza and Stephanie Lott said the new city 911 system will allow for quicker responses to emergency situations.
“The call will come directly to us, and we can ask questions immediately without delay and without the caller repeating the situation,” Carranza said Wednesday while showing the city’s current 911 system setup. “It will make for a safer environment for us, the caller and the responding officer.”
When Baldwin County and City of Milledgeville officials met in December regarding the city’s proposal to implement a city 911 system, Sheriff Bill Massee questioned why the discussion has come up now.
“As the sheriff operating this for the last 23 years, I have never once received a letter from the mayor, city administrator or chief of police saying anything about liability, we weren’t doing a good job or it’s an inadequate system,” Massee said last December. “We just upgraded our system and didn’t hear one word until we completed our new system.”
MPD will use equipment capable of receiving text messages, images, videos and data sent from the public under the Next Generation 911 emergency communication improvement initiative.
“The only thing we’ve invested in is equipment, phone lines and phone equipment,” Swicord said. “All of the equipment is in place except we’re waiting for the phone lines to be put in. Next week we should start the training process. We have a total of 10 dispatchers who work 12-hour shift, but we always have two dispatchers at all times.”
Jarrett said the city’s new 911 system should be implemented within the next 30 to 45 days.
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