Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Tuscaloosa County Upgrades Dispatch System While Mulling Consolidated E-911 Center

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Tuscaloosa County Upgrades Dispatch System While Mulling Consolidated E-911 Center

Article excerpt

The Tuscaloosa County E-911 board of directors is moving ahead with upgrades to dispatching equipment at its current facilities while it mulls a decision on whether to go forward with the construction of a consolidated E-911 center.

A $510,000 contract was signed last week with Emergency CallWorks of Birmingham for the purchase and installation of a new, state-of- the-art dispatching system, said Tuscaloosa County E-911 Director Rod Coleman.

The upgraded system will involve installing new equipment at the Tuscaloosa Police Department, the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office and the Northport Police Department. An additional "redundant" system will be placed in a secured area at the sheriff's office. The components could be relocated to the new E-911 center, should it be built, Coleman said.

Annual operating costs of the improved system are expected to be about $80,000, he said.

The board is also finalizing details with Birmingham-based TekLinks to improve data sharing within the county's 911 network at a cost of about $6,000 a year, Coleman said.

"This will be a big improvement, in the meantime, while we're contemplating a new center," he said.

A $1.60 surcharge on all land lines and cellphones will pay for the new equipment and upgrades. The surcharge, which is included on phone customers' monthly bills, amounts to about $3.1 million per year for the county's E-911 board and would also fund construction of the consolidated 911 center.

The Legislature established the statewide surcharge in 2012 to equalize the fees for 911 services. Before the statewide rate took effect on Oct. 1, 911 surcharges varied widely by county, with Tuscaloosa County among the lowest at 50 cents per land line. The county's surcharge for cellphone customers was 70 cents, which was set by the Legislature.

At its November meeting, the county E-911 board discussed the three sites it is now considering for the consolidated center, which also could house the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency.

All three sites are on a 529-acre tract that the Black Warrior Solid Waste Disposal Authority acquired from the Alabama Department of Mental Health in 2012. …

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