MANATEE -- Questions remain after Manatee County, municipal and fire district officials met Tuesday to discuss upgrading the county's nearly obsolete 911 system.
After the county unanimously abolished the ad hoc committee charged with guiding the multimillion-dollar upgrade, Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker called a meeting to discuss how to proceed.
"Sounds like we have a lot of work to do," Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said after the meeting.
Officials from Bradenton, Palmetto, Longboat Key and Holmes Beach, along with some from county fire districts, brought up questions and concerns as Manatee County information technology director Paul Alexander presented a financial analysis of the new $6 million system.
Officials discussed multiple ways to increase 911 efficiency. The options will now be taken back to municipalities for discussion as the county builds consensus on how to proceed.
Consolidation of the 911 system would make the county responsible for taking and dispatching all 911 calls.
The county now receives all 911 fees, which led to a discussion on whether Hunzeker thought the board of commissioners would be willing to take on all 911 call responsibility, including dispatch.
"That is a good question," Hunzeker said. "If the community wants to avoid call transfers and the only way to do that is consolidate ... would the board of commissioners pay that in the inter
est of public safety?"
Among other options discussed:
Would the county take all calls and standardize how information is sent to each municipality or agency?
Consolidating all call-taking and dispatching to the county Emergency Communications Center.
Most 911 calls, with the exception of landlines in Bradenton, are now sent to ECC first and about 29 percent of the average 2,500 calls annually are transferred to other municipalities, according to county officials.
The industry standard is going toward consolidation, Alexander said. The state also recommends it, he said.
Upgrading the current system without consolidation would cost about $830,000 more than current reserves and a grant would allow.
Radzilowski questioned if consolidation would improve customer service his department provides, which he said helped cut the crime rate over the last decade.
"I'm not opposed to consolidation, but we want to talk to our police officers and our citizens," Radzilowski said. "That's what our citizens want."
The 911 system operates on 40-year-old technology, which will become obsolete next year. The copper telephony-based system will be replaced by a fiber network based on Internet protocol as part the system upgrade.
Among the advantages of the new system: Citizens will be able to text, email or send video to emergency operators. Additionally, the new 911 system will provide a backup system with full operational capabilities.
If municipalities do not want to consolidate 911 operations, a secondary line could be run to those workstations as a backup.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.