A final contract for installation of the county's centralized and upgraded 911 emergency dispatch system was approved and signed Wednesday by the Davis County Commission.

The county currently has a basic system in operation but is installing a more complex, computerized system than previously.The commission on Wednesday approved spending $148,000 to upgrade four dispatch centers in the county. Centers scheduled for upgrading include the Davis County Sheriff's Office dispatch center in Farmington and the Bountiful, Layton, and Clearfield police department centers.

Sheriff's department Capt. K.D. Simpson, heading up the 911 proj-ect, told the commissioners each of the four centers needs a different type of renovation, ranging from new electrical wiring to humidity and temperature control to support the computer equipment.

The county has $138,000 in a fund to spend on the project, according to county financial officer Lamar Holt, and will have the remaining $10,000 needed by next month.

The county is collecting a 50-cent per month per residence fee on telephone bills to fund the improved 911 system. The fee was authorized two years ago by the Utah Legislature,

Simpson told the commission that with the signing of the contract with US WEST, the sole bidder on 911 installation, he expects work will begin in January and the system to be operational by March.

It will be tested from March through July and then turned over to the county in midsummer, Simpson said.

Although pleased to be getting the improved system, county deputy attorney Jerry Hess said the fact that US WEST is the sole bidder on its installation and maintenance has caused some problems, especially in contract negotiations.

With only one firm interested, a "take it or leave it" attitude developed in areas of liability negotiations, Hess said. Some changes in the contract asked for by the county were accepted but many were not, he said.

"There's not much negotiation with them because they're the sole source supplier. That's something we've tried to avoid because of problems in the past with sole source suppliers," Hess said.

"But we've reached the point where, if we want the 911 system, we have to accept it. I don't like it, but we'll have to accept it because there aren't any competitors, which leaves us not in a good negotiating position," he said.

The contract leaves US WEST responsible only for the cost of repairing a breakdown in the system, Hess said, and absolves it of any liability for problems the breakdown may cause.

That means if an emergency call on 911 is not completed or delayed, and injury or damage results, the telephone company could not be included in any resultant lawsuit, he said.

But Hess said the Legislature recognized that problem could arise and in the bill setting up the telephone bill surcharge included a clause absolving local emergency response and government entities from liability in using the system.

Holt said the county auditor's office is running the 911 program out of an enterprise fund, separate from the county's general fund revenues.

The 50-cent per month fee is enough to set up and operate the 911 system, Holt said, and probably put some money aside for depreciation to replace equipment as it ages.

But Holt said he doubts the fee could be eventually be reduced to 35 or 30 cents per month because of ongoing operating costs, such as labor for the dispatchers who operate the system.