County seeks to take lead in 911 system

By Andy Taylor
Montgomery County Chronicle – March 20, 2014
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – April 11, 2014

Montgomery County commissioners on Monday placed themselves as the lead entity for a consolidated 911 dispatch system in Montgomery County.

Commissioners voted unanimously, albeit with questions from commissioner Larry McManus about consolidation costs, to become the one PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) for a consolidated Montgomery County 911 system. By being a countywide PSAP, the Montgomery County Commission will have access to the 911 funds that are collected each month by customers’ telephone bills.

“It gives us control of the money that was originally designed to belong to the county,” explained county commissioner Leon Rau, who has spearheaded efforts to create a consolidate 911 dispatching system. Rau added that 911 fees were originally distributed to each county. However, a change in state legislation in 2011 gave those 911 fees to the operators of the PSAPs in each county.

There are currently four 911 dispatch systems in Montgomery County, with three of the four receiving revenue from the monthly 911 fees. They include:

Coffeyville Police Department: Handles all landline 911 calls in the Coffeyville, Dearing, Liberty, South Coffeyville, and Tyro telephone exchanges.

Independence Police Department: Handles all landline 911 calls in Independence, Sycamore, Havana, Cherryvale and Elk City telephone exchanges. The Independence Police Department also has a second system, which handles all 911 cellular calls for all areas within Montgomery County.

Caney Police Department: Caney Police Department handles all land-line 911 calls in the Caney telephone exchange. The Caney 911 system is not funded by 911 fees.

Asked how much money would be required to consolidate the 911 systems and have Montgomery County serve as the lead entity, Rau could not offer any answer. He did say those questions were being answered with semi-monthly meetings of law enforcement and emergency services in Montgomery County. Those twice-monthly meetings have allowed department chiefs from police, fire, sheriff, and ambulance services to discuss prospects of creating a centralized 911 system and how it would function.

However, during the course of those discussions, the City of Independence has not committed to being a part of the county commission’s centralized 911 idea. At a meeting of the Independence City Commission last week, city commissioners supported a suggestion from city manager Micky Webb that the 911 consolidation discussions be put on hold while an independent study was conducted to determine the costs required for a countywide 911 dispatch system. Webb submitted a letter to the county commission on Friday in which he asked for the independent study. The county commission did not act on Webb’s letter at Monday’s meeting.

Rau did say that if Independence chose to opt out of the centralized 911 system, then the City of Independence would keep its 911 fees.

County commissioner Larry McManus voted in favor of the resolution toward Montgomery County serving as the lead PSAP for 911. However, he questioned the unknown costs of a consolidated system.

“I support the idea, but I would still like to know how much this is going to cost,” he said.

Under the Kansas 911 Act that was approved by the Kansas Legislature in 2011, all telephone customers in Kansas pay a 911 fee that is 54 cents per month per line. Prepaid wireless 911 fees are 1.06 percent of the retail transaction.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster