Utah County cities not interested in supporting installation of an enhanced 911 emergency telephone system may end up with a lower level of 911 service than they now have, County Commissioner Brent Morris says.
Most county cities, including Provo and Orem, support installation of the system, which uses computers to tell dispatchers a caller's address and phone number as soon as the dispatcher answers the call. Some smaller communities, including Genola, have balked at supporting the system.Bill Jensen, US WEST customer support specialist, said sophisticated telephone equipment and accompanying monitors needed for public safety answering points would cost the county approximately $500,000. Purchase and installation of data base equipment would run $175,000, and monthly maintenance costs about $18,000.
In addition, telephone lines to and from Utah County and a Salt Lake control office would cost approximately $20,000, not including monthly charges of about $10,000.
To raise money for the system, county cities are implementing a 50-cent monthly surcharge per residential phone line. The surcharge would be in place two years to raise funds for start-up costs, after which it could be lowered. Provo and Orem will implement the surcharge within the next couple of months. Meanwhile, the county is drawing up an interlocal agreement for surcharge collection from other cities.
Morris said it would be best if all county cities implement E911 simultaneously. He said he favors establishing one answering point in Provo for south county cities and one in Orem for north county cities. It's not worth the cost of installing a third answering point just to perpetuate what Morris calls turf battles by cities that don't want to be serviced through Orem or Provo. locations
The county also should consolidate dispatch services, which currently are provided by Orem, Provo, Pleasant Grove, Springville and the county central dispatch, he said.
"Had we pursued the consolidated dispatch, it would have opened the door to the consolidation of other services" and facilitated establishment of E911, Morris said.
Some cities still aren't convinced the system is worth the cost, while others can't agree on how many answering points should be installed. If a city declines to implement a surcharge and support E911 installation, Morris said, the county will face two options: subsidize the cost of providing that city with E911 service or degrade that city's current 911 system.
Cities that don't join with the rest of the county would have to either set up their own 24-hour dispatch or start using a seven-digit telephone number for emergency calls, Jensen said. Those using a seven-digit number would lose call-back and lock-in abilities, in which a dispatcher is able to call back the caller or control the telephone line even if the caller inadvertently hangs up.
"We would not recommend a seven-digit number," Jensen said. It's safer to give a city's residents E911 service, because many of them will think they have the service anyway and may not know the seven-digit number, he said.