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9-1-1 System Upgrade Explained To County Board Of Supervisors

By Staff | Nov 19, 2009

Palo Alto County’s 9-1-1 system is some of the best technology available, it is also nearing the end of its useful service life.

That was the message presented to the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors by County Sheriff Dennis Goeders and Emergency Management Director Mark Hunefeld during the weekly board meeting on Tuesday.

According to Goeders, the county’s E-9-1-1 Commission is planning on a systems upgrade in the coming year to the 9-1-1 equipment located in the Palo Alto County Communications Center. The equipment, which included computer locating and tracking systems, is nearing what Hunefeld termed the end of its useful life.

“Basically, we have equipment in our Communications Center that we can no longer obtain repair parts for,” Hunefeld told the supervisors. “The advancements in technology are ongoing and after so long, equipment becomes outdated, and that’s kind of where we’re headed.”

According to Hunefeld, in past years, such equipment upgrades and replacements were funded through a grant process, where the local E-9-1-1 authority would submit grant funding requests to the state of Iowa, who would award grants from the Wireless Carryover Fund, a pool of money generated by a state surcharge on wireless phones. A local surcharge is also applied to wireless phones, with those funds going to the local E-9-1-1 authority to match the state grants.

“This year, we do not have the Wireless Carryover Fund money to draw from at the state level,” Hunefeld said. “The state took it away in May, and said it would be available in September, but now they tell us not to expect it any time in the near future.”

According to Goeders, the necessary upgrades to the Communications Center equipment is estimated at $120,000 to $130,000. “That would include the 9-1-1 tracking system, tie ins with Qwest, the recording system for all radio and telephone traffic and hardware.”

“Part of what is driving this is that the new technology would allow us to better track wireless communications or IP tracking, such as Trac Phones or people who call over the internet,” Hunefeld said. “And, this would also allow us to use the VIPER system, which is a method of allowing a 9-1-1 operator to receive text messages and send out text alerts for bad weather or the like.”

Hunefeld went on to explain that the E-9-1-1 Commission was going to apply for a Palo Alto County Gaming Development Commission Grant, and wanted the to know if the Supervisors would be supportive of such a grant application, and possibly write a letter of support for a grant application.

“I think you should go ahead and apply for the grant,” said Supervisor Ron Graettinger. “It doesn’t sound like the state is going to help you out if they took the funding away.”

“Another possible funding option for us could be to increase the local surcharge for landline phones,” Hunefeld noted. “We’ve gone from $65,000 of revenue through that surcharge to $60,000 because people are giving up their landlines and going to cell phones in just the past five years.”

“I think that grant is a good idea, too,” observed Supervisor Keith Wirtz.

The board thanked the pair for the update and offered their support of a letter for the grant process.

In other action, the Supervisors approved a bid for fuel supplies at the Cylinder Secondary Road location. A fuel delivery system was recently established at the Cyinder shed, eliminating the need for the county’s equipment to purchase fuel at the State Line Cooperative fueling location in the community.

“We received bids for fuel from Green Plains Energy, Ruthven Coop Oil, Star Energy, MaxYield Cooperative and Pro Cooperative,” reported Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz. “The low bidder would be Pro Cooperative, from their Graettinger location, in the amount of $21,078.80.’

According to Fantz, the county will save approximately 10 cents per gallon for fuel by using its own supply as opposed to purchasing it from the State Line Coop pumps

The contract was approved on a unanimous vote.

The board members also approved a contract, bid bond and insurance coverage with Cramer and Associates of Grimes, IA, for the rehabilitation and repair of the Kirby-Flynn Bridge over the Des Moines River, southeast of Emmetsburg. The steel truss bridge was closed several years ago after a fire destroyed a third of the wooden plank decking.

“The bid from Cramer and Associates came in at $258,188.40,” Fantz noted. “The Cramer people indicated that they are planning on doing this work as a winter project. They’ve ordered the planks for the decking, and those are 45 days from delivery.

When the bridge is repaired and inspected, it will be restricted for vehicular traffic of three tons or less.

Fantz also reported that staff would be looking to replace a 1982 Freightliner semi tractor in the next few months.

“This is the tractor that we use to haul the dozer on the lowboy trailer with, and it has some major transmission and engine issues,“?Fantz said. “It’s just at the point where it’s not worth repairing, when you can but a newer truck to replace it for $26 or $27,000.

“Trucks are cheap right now,“?agreed Wirtz. “You can really buy some good, reliable and dependable trucks at a good price right now.”

Fantz noted their is no timetable to acquire a replacement, but that there were funds available for it.