The Union Recorder

September 6, 2013

Joint city and county 911 Authority possible

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The City of Milledgeville and Baldwin County are working on options for consolidated E-911 operations. Tuesday's Baldwin County Commissioners meeting provided an update. 

County Attorney David McRee said there is a proposal in principle forming a 911 Authority cooperative. Commissioner Sammy Hall, District 3, said the county is ready to go with a 911 Authority idea.

“We are waiting on a memorandum of understanding or an agreement from the city. We've met and everybody has agreed that we were going to consolidate the 911 system,” Hall said.

The state looks favorably toward regional 911 systems, according to County Manager Ralph McMullen. There are ways to subsidize monies if additional counties lacking enhanced equipment to dispatch 911 came into the authority as well.

“We could actually look at bringing in surrounding counties. That would help us pay the cost of this 911 system,” McMullen said.

Hall is confident the 911 co-op will happen.

“I don't know why it's taken so long to get the proposal done, but this is one thing so far that everybody has agreed to,” the District 3 commissioner said Tuesday. “We are waiting on the city to take that next step.”

Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord said the 911 topic sits in discussion phase.

“We've given them proposals to indicate several options we could discuss to see if we were in agreement. An authority is one of the options as far as having a board setup to actually oversee how money is spent,” Swicord said. “It's really up in the air right now. I think the meetings are going well trying to come up with some understanding of how we can resolve this issue as far as either being under one umbrella operating separately or totally going up under one umbrella.”

Consolidating services does more with less. Employee salaries and benefits all factor into future emergency service decisions. 

“I don't think anyone has put cards on the table and said how this is going to work,” the police chief said.

Swicord does think the emergency response delivery issue will work out in everyone's best interest under a checks and balances system for expenditures.

“If we can correct or better it, let's try it,” he said.

The proposed 911 Authority sets up a board to oversee emergency call operations. A director is selected who then answers to either the city or county manager.

According to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) 911 Emergency plan, a local authority planning task force includes the following individuals: chief of police, county sheriff, fire chiefs, emergency medical service agencies, mayor, county commission chairman, representatives of citizens' groups and other telephone company and service representatives.

Authority negotiations such as selecting authority team members, arrangements for sharing operational responsibility and cost sharing work into the situation also.

“Everyone is involved in how that system works and basically has a vote in how calls are answered or how things are handled,” Swicord said.

The city implemented a more advanced 911 system this July in hopes all future emergency calls stemming from within city limits would head directly to the Milledgeville Police Department versus the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office.

Currently, all city and county emergency calls go through the Baldwin County 911 Center. In the past, the county dispatcher transferred calls within the city limits to the MPD. The MPD dispatcher, who wasn't able to view caller information on his or her system, then asked the same series of questions as the previous county dispatcher, causing a delay in the emergency response time.

After the summer upgrade, the city's E-911 is receiving a one-button transfer from the county center. Police operators now receive Automated Number Identification (ANI) and Automated Location Information (ALI) with their new equipment.

“The one button transfers that ANI/ALI information straight to us. We are seeing the caller information, which is 1,000 times better than it was,” Swicord said.

With city elections upcoming, the timeline for an altered intergovernmental 911-service delivery setup isn't concrete.

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