I am writing today about the outdated E911 System in Dickinson County.
I have had the opportunity to see the operations room and the server room. This is our reality: the current E911 equipment is 21 years old, technologically obsolete and beyond repair. Spare parts are no longer produced. Two non-replaceable computer boards are all that is keeping this system on-line.
The console clocks cannot keep accurate time; they have been covered so the dispatchers will not see incorrect information. If our E911 service fails, to quote an expert, "Unless people have all emergency services phone numbers memorized or programmed into their phones, there will be no direct access to immediate help."
The E911 System handles between 6,000 and 9,000 calls per year. Our dispatchers are professionals and provide the best service possible while working with antiquated equipment. Dickinson County has an area of 770 square miles. Because appropriate personnel can be dispatched from a central location, response times are well under 10 minutes for our local area; outlying areas take longer.
Dickinson County also provides mutual aid to surrounding counties, including Florence and Marinette, if it is requested.
Our E911 System operation is partially funded by a 42 cents surcharge per landline or cell phone, one of the lowest in the state. Surcharges returned to Dickinson County fund less than half of the operational costs of the E911 system. Coverage for the remainder of the operational costs comes from the General Fund; in 2012 that amount was $295,000.
As you know, the E911 millage request did not pass. The request for 0.4 mills per year for three years, or approximately $375,000 annually for equipment and operations was defeated by a narrow margin.
The cost of replacing and upgrading the equipment is estimated to be between $350,000 and $450,000. Replacement is necessary to maintain the services our residents have come to expect, and indeed to which they are entitled by state law. Even extreme cost cutting and belt-tightening by the County Board of Commissioners will not be enough to cover the cost of new equipment, installation, training and maintenance.
A new system would guarantee reliable service and enhance the safety and well being of the residents of Dickinson County.
The County Board of Commissioners, Mr. Wender, Mr. Smith, Mr. Stevens, Mr. Degenaer and Ms. Martin, must now decide whether or not to return the millage question to Dickinson County voters in 2013.
The only opportunity to conduct a countywide millage election will be on Feb. 28.
The commissioners will be making their decision at the board meeting scheduled for Nov. 26.
I urge residents to contact their commissioners as soon as possible to voice their opinions on this important matter.
Barbara J. Kramer