Sweet deal cooking at 911

Published 11:22 am Friday, April 4, 2014

It’s been a long time coming, but Vicksburg Warren E-911 might finally be on solid footing when it comes to its technologi- cal capability.

On Monday, executive director Jason Tatum conveyed a confi- dent tone on the eve of the facil- ity’s maintenance contract with AT&T expiring. He said the time has come for a new main computer system for receiving and dispatching to proper authorities calls for car acci- dents, medical emergencies, fires, shootings and more.

In years past, it was a time for panic on the part of county supervisors who preside over a tax base that hasn’t grown at the same rate as the price tag for things like asphalt, technical equipment, fuel, health insurance, etc.

This time, according to Tatum, the stars have aligned for the local emergency call center to afford an up-to-date central system, have it sync with soft- ware already in use locally, have upgrades done when needed and not need a property tax increase to fund it.

A $309,000 offer from South- aven-based ADSI will pay for a computer-aided dispatch system, or CAD, at a cost that’s nearly $165,000 cheaper than its nearest competitor in the E-911 Commission’s request for pro- posals issued earlier this year. The company sells equipment to the state and to the Vicks- burg Police Department, which makes it an offer the city-county commission truly can’t refuse.

“We’ll pay for it out of sur- charge money, over time,” Tatum said, referring to taxes that are taken out of everyone’s cellphone bills in Mississippi that fund 911 centers statewide. It can be argued, and it has been sporadically for more than a decade, that those surcharges are too low to adequately fund 911 in a time when cellphones are used more frequently than landlines. That’s an editorial for another day, as the bottom- line savings and versatility of the deal the county board is expected to approve next week is to be lauded here.

In 2005, Warren County raised property taxes to pay for the $518,442.93 system in use now. Maintenance agreements on that CAD ran out mid-

night Tuesday and any issues with it would cost the public money, much like when the water pump in your car conks out just a few weeks after the warranty expires. This time, a new system might be imple- mented within four months that police officers can sync with reports being written in the field in real time. And, ADSI officials have told Tatum, it’ll be upgraded when needed as long as the commission pays a $1,750 monthly maintenance agreement.

The human element might have its way with that whole “real time” thing — but, to keep the car imagery going, it’s like getting a newer, sleeker, more fuel-efficient vehicle with a service technician making house calls to change the oil. Diligence is urged to hold ADSI to their proposal, of course. But it’s a huge step for- ward to have the financial stars align in the taxpayers’ favor, for a change.