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Wireless 911 new goal for county

March 5, 2009

LISBON -With 911 service now in place for landlines, officials are turning their attention to bringing wireless 911 to Columbiana County.

County 911 Director Robert Emmons told the 911 oversight board at Wednesday's meeting he already has been working on a plan that would result in wireless 911 service.

Anyone using a cell phone currently can place a 911 call that is routed to one of the five dispatching centers in the county. But without wireless 911 service, the dispatchers are unable to determine the location of the call, and half of all such calls come from cell phones.

To track these calls, a sophisticated and expensive mapping system needs to be in place that would provide much greater detail and accuracy than the current 911 mapping system used for landlines. Emmons said there are companies that perform this mapping service by driving around the county in a specially equipped van with a team of employees who take detailed GPS readings and measurements, record addresses and take photographs, all of which would be available to the dispatcher handling the call.

The cost of such a mapping system is an estimated $360,000, but Emmons said the good news is the Ohio Department of Transportation will pay about half the cost because it is required to have a detailed map of the county.

The remaining $180,000 or so cost would be shared by the 911 board, along with the county auditor's office and county engineer's office, which are interested in having such a map for its use.

The cost of implementing wireless 911 is an estimated $150,000. There is currently $659,0000 in the county's wireless account, which is funded with the 32 cent monthly tax charged cell phone users since 2006. The tax was reduced recently to 28 cents and extended until 2013.

There is a voter-approved monthly tax of 50 cents per land phone already in place that pays for the existing 911 service. That fund currently has a balance of $940,609, and Emmons estimates it will cost $102,000 to maintain the system this year.

In other action, Emmons also recommended the board consider recommending to county commissioners 911 funds be used to purchase reliable backup power sources for the Salem, Columbiana and East Palestine police departments, which serve as 911 dispatching centers. He said the other two dispatching centers - the sheriff's office and East Liverpool - have good backup systems in place.

The board's next meeting is 1 p.m. May 27 at the county commissioners meeting room in the courthouse.



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