911 Board Working Hard to Provide a Safer Tomorrow

In April 2018, voters passed a 1% sales tax to be used for the funding of 911. The Board of Directors at the time pushed for a tax that would provide a secure, long-term source of income, which would be able to sustain Ray County 911 services, both now and in the future. This funding is used to meet payroll needs, maintain and update equipment, pay utilities, provide and maintain a building to house 911, and cover other expenses necessary for the operation of a 911 dispatch center. Each year, the Board of Directors is obligated by state statute to review and adjust the tax rate if income surpasses needs.

Since the passage of the tax, the current Board of Directors has evaluated and reviewed the payrolls of Ray County’s surrounding dispatch centers. We elected to increase wages and compensation packages in an effort to hire and retain quality employees. This option was most favorable, reducing the risk of invested time, training, and resources being lost to another dispatch center if the employee(s) were to resign. In addition, the Board of Directors replaced the emergency backup generator, which powers the 911 facility during power outages. This decision was necessary because the previous generator was obsolete, new repair parts were unavailable, and used parts were unreliable and difficult to find.

With radio being the primary means of communication for emergency dispatchers to coordinate law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, it was important for us to find a way to improve this vital piece of our system. We reviewed various options available and made the decision to join the Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network, better known as MOSWIN. With this decision came the need to replace the radios that law enforcement, fire and EMS providers would require. Realizing the financial burden of replacing radios for each of the departments within the county, the Board of Directors first asked the departments to inventory their current radios to determine the perceived need in their respective areas. The Board then asked each department to evaluate what radio equipment would actually be necessary for them to operate at full capacity.

With the total number and type of radios determined, we negotiated and entered into a seven-year agreement with Commenco. This agreement covered the purchase and installation of new Motorola radios for all departments and provided emergency radios to every school building in Ray County. We are currently in our second year of the agreement, with annual payments of $360,125.61. At the end of the sevenyear period, the total payout will be equal to $2,520,879.27. Under the terms of the current agreement with Commenco, Ray County 911 retains ownership of the radios until final payment is made, at which time, the Board will relinquish ownership of the radios to the respective departments.

With continual advancements in technology, your Board of Directors saw the need to replace the existing Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), which was purchased around 2008. With each passing year, it became more difficult to service, due to the original manufacturer being bought out by a competitor. The new CAD system is designed to allow the majority of our law enforcement, fire and EMS departments the ability to link their CAD systems with ours, if they choose.

As a result of the 1% sales tax, funds which were once paid out each year by local and county governments to help fund the basic functions of 911 are no longer required. Instead, these funds can now be used by county and local governments to make infrastructure improvements that benefit our communities.

When voters approved the tax to fund Ray County 911, there were many topics to be discussed among the newly elected Board of Directors during their first meeting – radio improvements, generator replacement, payroll equality to reduce turnover, technological advancements to improve dispatch services, and last, but not least, building concerns. Should the board consider a building replacement for the 911 facility? Or can the building be retrofitted to bring it up to the standards set forth by the International Building Codes (IBC), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and National Electric Code just to name a few? Each of these organizations set the standards for dispatch centers nationwide. Here is a brief list of standards that need to be met:

The IBC, Chapter/Section 1604.5: “Building must be designed to meet essential facility requirements for lateral force (seismic and wind) resistance.”

NFPA 1221, Standards for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communication Systems, Chapter/Section 4.2.1: “When the building hous ing the communication center is adjacent to another structure, the exposed walls shall be constructed of fire resistive materials. The center shall be constructed of non-combustible materials and shall have a roof of noncombustible materials.” Also listed in Chapter/Section 4.6.6: “There shall be a barrier to prevent unauthorized vehicles from getting within 82’’ of the building.”

These are only a few of the requirements that need to be met. It quickly became apparent that there is no possibility of meeting these standards at our current location.

Realizing that at some point we would need to relocate the Ray County 911 facility, the board’s first priority was to devise a plan that would finance the project. For the first part of the process, the board decided to set aside a minimum of $150,000 per year from the sales tax revenue to purchase the land necessary and finance construction. Part two of the process involved the review of various facilities and deciding on the type of structure to erect. Your board opted to go with a structure that is primarily earth contact, which would leave very limited exposure for damage from tornadoes and sheer force winds. Part three of the project required the identification of a suitable property that could meet the county’s needs now and into the future. Part four of the project involved locating a partner with expertise and experience, who would work with the board to design and – in the future – build a facility that would house Ray County 911 for many generations to come.

In closing, the Board of Directors that you chose to serve you is working diligently to provide the citizens of Ray County with equipment that will enhance your safety. We’re hard at work to train, equip and retain skilled dispatch personnel, and are working to provide a structure that can readily adapt as technology changes, keeping our communities safe and secure, now and in the future.

Paul Harris,

911 Board President

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