The county is moving ahead on plans to install an enhanced 911 emergency telephone system despite turf battles that, if unresolved, could make the system more expensive.
Most county cities, including Provo and Orem, support installation of the system. The enhanced service uses computers to tell dispatchers a caller's address and phone number as soon as the dispatcher answers the call.What cities can't agree on, however, is how many public safety answering points the county needs. These answering points monitor and transfer calls to appropriate dispatch centers.
According to US West officials, sophisticated telephone equipment and accompanying monitors needed to set up an answering point cost about $500,000. Purchase and installation of data base equipment will run around $175,000, and monthly maintenance costs are projected to be $18,000.
Some cities want two answering points in the county - one in Orem for north county cities, and one in Provo for south county cities. Other cities, however, don't want to be serviced by Provo or Orem, and want to see a third answering point run by the county.
GTE representative Bill Place, speaking at last week's Council of Governments meeting, said the county needs only one answering point. A second or third answering point would mean duplication of equipment and waste of money. One answering point would be sufficient even if the county wanted a backup system in case the single answering point failed, he said.
"You can have backup and redundancy without having two PSAPs," he said.
While some cities want three answering points, officials from other cities think it's time to overcome turf battles and choose the most economical alternative.
"There's one thing that really bugs me about this whole thing," said Lehi Mayor George Tripp. "To have three of four or five (answering points) just seems like a waste of money. It seems like we have a turf battle."
Commissioner Brent Morris said the county should do what it can to minimize costs. But, he said, some cities are still telling the county, "You be a PSAP location because we don't like Provo or Orem."
Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck agrees. "I'd really like to see us look at one PSAP location," he said.
COG officials, at the suggestion of Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins, have begun organizing a committee to study the answering-point issue and select a communications company from which to buy needed E911 hardware. COG also plans to have US West begin collecting data needed to implement the system.
The committee will include a representative from Provo, Orem, the county and any other municipalities interested in providing input.
To finance E911, county cities are implementing a 50-cent monthly surcharge per residential phone line. The surcharge will be in place two years to raise funds for start-up costs, after which it may be lowered.
Orem already has begun collecting the 50-cent surcharge, and Provo will implement the surcharge next month. Morris said the county is working out the bugs in an interlocal agreement that other Utah County cities must approve before the surcharge can be collected in those cities. The earliest the surcharge will be implemented in those cities is October and E911 implementation would follow in two years.