Hot Springs, AK, USA, July, 2017-- The 911 call center that will serve as the nexus of the communication upgrade making Garland County a full-time user on the Arkansas Wireless Information Network should be functional by the end of the year, the county's Department of Emergency Management told justices of the peace last week.
Director Bo Robertson said at a meeting of Garland County Quorum Court committees that the former jail should be fully equipped by December.
The 5,000-square-foot facility will receive 911 calls and dispatch personnel from the Garland County sheriff's office and all of the county's volunteer fire departments. The sheriff's office 2017 budget includes funds to hire five additional dispatchers for the new answering point, giving the county 14 dispatchers to man the five consoles.
Robertson said the added personnel will allow a minimum of four dispatchers to provide around-the-clock staffing, with five available during peak times. The county's current answering point in the sheriff's office is staffed by one person at times, Robertson said.
Volunteer fire departments are currently dispatched by the call center at LifeNet Emergency Medical Services. The answer point in the sheriff's office and the city's answering point in the Hot Springs Police Department receive 911 calls for ambulance and volunteer fire service and transfer those calls to LifeNet.
The two answering points also have to transfer 911 calls for Arkansas State Police service to the Trook K call center and emergency service in Hot Springs Village to the Village call center. Robertson said reducing the number of transfers is one of the main reasons for upgrading the county's communication system.
"The more transfers, the more delay," Robertson said.
In December, LifeNet announced its intention to join the expanded city answering point. Part of the 2.6 mills Hot Springs levied for its General Fund in the 2016 tax year will double the number of consoles in the city answering point, allowing calls for ambulance service to be handled from one location. LifeNet said the partnership makes sense because 69 percent of its calls are for service within the city.
The tax is in support of the city's Project 25 Phase 2 Radio system. The city is still evaluating proposals that Harris Corp. and Motorola Solutions presented in April as part of their bids on what's expected to be more than a $6 million project.
Motorola is the state's Arkansas Wireless Information Network contractor. It's unclear whether the submissions include a proposal to make the city a full-time Arkansas Wireless Information Network user.
The city is evaluating the proposals. Robertson said the county can begin working on an agreement with the city to share communication channels once it decides whether to join the Arkansas Wireless Information Network or use a proprietary system it would be responsible for maintaining. The county's $5.58 million project to join the Arkansas Wireless Information Network full time will give its emergency and public service operations 30 channels.
Robertson told Quorum Court members that the county has agreements to share Arkansas Wireless Information Network channels with the state police, the National Park Service, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Hot Springs Village public-safety entities.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Date Posted: Wednesday, July 5, 2017
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