In their moment of need, people don’t think of unfunded state mandates and construction costs when they call 911.
Those issues surrounding that emergency service in Tazewell County, however, will cost the county and its larger communities about $2 million, and decisions about them must be made soon.
“There’s lots of things to do in a little time, and there’s no mechanism yet for how to pay for them,” Tammie Conover said Monday.
She serves as the director of communications for the Tazewell/Pekin Consolidated Communications Center (TPCCC), the not-for-profit agency that handles 911 calls for the county Sheriff’s Department, the Pekin Police Department and 32 other police, fire and Emergency Medical Service providers.
The communities of East Peoria, Washington and Morton operate their own 911 systems. That means four Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) serve Tazewell.
A recently passed state law will require the county, given its population, to cut its PSAPs to two at most. If it’s two, one will dispatch for the three communities while TPCCC will remain separate.
A decision on that issue could come this week, said Conover, who also serves on the Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB), which monitors the county’s 911 systems.
On Wednesday the ETSB will review proposals submitted by several private consulting groups suggesting paths for 911 consolidation that will produce the best service to citizens and costs involved, Conover said.
David Zimmerman, who as County Board chairman serves on the TPCCC Board, said Monday he anticipates the choice will be an addition to the Morton Police Department to house 911 services for the village, East Peoria and Washington.
That will cost about $800,000, Zimmerman said. “Morton will have the biggest share,” in return for its expanded police headquarters, “but the others will chip in.”
No decisions have been made, however, on how to address the greatest expense of the state-mandated 911 system changes.
It will cost “well north of $1 million,” Zimmerman said, to bring the latest in communication technology to the system, including the ability to text 911 calls.
“The whole county” will foot that bill, he said.
How to pay it, and how to pay for whatever new construction the chosen 911 consolidation plan carries, will require input from the county’s and its communities’ elected officials. “The people who write the checks have to be involved,” Zimmerman said.
Conover said states across the nation are consolidating and upgrading their 911 systems. “Indiana just finished theirs,” with the help of private consultants.
Tazewell, however, is approaching state-imposed deadlines.
It must submit its consolidation plan to state authorities by next October. Any new facility must be built by December 2018. And the new 911 technology must be installed by 2019, Zimmerman said.
“We could ask for a waiver” of at least some of the deadlines, as the county has already done once, Conover said. “But we need to have a plan (of action) first.”
At least in terms of 911 center consolidation, “After Wednesday, I think we’ll know which direction to head,” she said.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin