Commissioners decide to explore requests before acting

LISBON -Columbiana County commissioners decided to take it slow with two routine spending requests from the 911 committee until the committee can explore whether money can be saved by waiting.

The county’s 911 committee resubmitted a recommendation that commissioners approve the purchase of 13 new computer monitors for dispatchers to use at the five 911 answering centers. This was done at the request of 911 Director Robert Emmons, who said the wider screens are needed to better accommodate the new aerial photographs that are now automatically displayed along with a map when a call is received.

The total cost for the 13 monitors is $2,633, but Commissioner Tim Weigle, who serves on the 911 committee, recommended they purchase only one new monitor for each answering center instead of for all 13 dispatching stations at the answering centers. The county sheriff’s office and the Columbiana, East Liverpool, East Palestine and Salem police departments serve as 911 answering centers under the county’s system.

Weigle said it makes little sense to replace all of the monitors right now if that might occur anyway when they upgrade to Next Generation (NG) 911, which allows answering centers to accept text messages, photographs and videos from cellphones and other electronic devices.

He recommended holding off purchasing more monitors, at least for now, until the committee decides whether it wants to proceed with upgrading anytime soon to NG 911, or if the monitors even work adequately. His fellow commissioners agreed and only voted to purchase five of the 13 requested monitors.

The 911 committee had also requested commissioners renew the maintenance agreements for the computer-aided dispatching (CAD) and 911 records management systems used by all of the answering centers except the sheriff’s office. The cost is $30,432 per year.

Columbiana Police Chief Tim Gladis, who serves on the 911 committee, attended the meeting and suggested it made far more financial sense to explore what it would cost to purchase a single CAD and records management system serving all of the 911 answering centers instead of each one having their own and continuing to pay those maintenance costs.

“In my opinion that’s a smarter way to do business,” he said.

In addition to the potential cost savings, a central CAD/records management system would improve police and fire responses since all of the answering centers would have access to the same 911 call information, which is not the case now, Gladis said.

Weigle recommended commissioners take no action on renewing these maintenance agreements pending further study by the committee. He said moving to a central CAD/records management system might be part of the upgrade to NG 911.

“I think that’s the discussion you need to have,” he said.