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Monett 911 Board hears about changes

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Monett 911 Advisory Board heard about a number of changes in the city's emergency service system during its quarterly meeting on April 27 at the Monett Justic Center.

Bonnie Witt-Schulte, director of the Monett Police Department's dispatching program, said the upgrade to the ITI Enterprise system in February 2010 had involved substantial learning. The new computer-aided dispatching system allowed a number of modifications tailored to meet the city system's needs.

"We have a better way to track calls and know where they are going," Witt Schulte told The Times. "The system is now working better than ever."

Two radio backups costing around $1,500 have been added to the city's system. Witt-Schulte said the system previously only picked up local radio traffic. The backup system now brings in Carthage radio traffic and weather reports from Joplin as well as all the radio traffic from Barry and Lawrence counties.

Witt-Schulte said the backup will enable Monett dispatchers to talk to distant stations and will provide another way to receive calls if the primary radio goes down.

Other attempts to improve the system have not advanced very far. A year ago the board approved hiring the OnPoint firm to conduct an audit of the city's system, tracking all the phone numbers in the database and eliminating numbers that do not work.

Witt-Schulte said OnPoint became engaged in an extended project with Greene County, delaying its work in Monett. In addition, AT&T, which manages the city's database, will not allow the city to share the listing with OnPoint. Until the database can be reviewed, the audit cannot proceed.

City Attorney Amy Boxx has been asked for advice on how to resolve the deadlock.

Financial matters

Bids were sought for a new recording system to document all radio and phone traffic. Witt-Schulte said all the bids came in too high. She was trying to rewrite the proposal to bring the cost down.

Presently, the city is using a borrowed recording system. Parts are no longer available for the city's unit or for the loaner. A vendor has provided the loaner unit for the past six months.

The number of land lines on which the 911 system can draw a surcharge continues to drop. Witt-Schulte reported the total, now limited to Lawrence County, seems to fall by about 30 phones a month, reducing the city's income to run the system by about $55 a month.

Missouri remains the only state that has no mechanism to pay for 911 service. A Missouri 911 Directors Association has organized to provide public education and to press the Missouri General Assembly to pass legislation remedying the problem. Several bills have been introduced during the current legislative session, but have not gotten out of committee.

A "911 Day at the Capitol" is planned in the coming month, before the legislature adjourns for the year. Advisory board members talked about sending a representative. Witt-Schulte said opposition by phone companies has so far blocked any funding proposals.

Central dispatching

In an effort to explore options for Lawrence County's 911 system, Monett Police Chief Tim Schweder hosted an open forum about central dispatching at the Lawrence County Justice Center. Representatives from Aurora, which has the third 911 system in the county, and several fire departments attended. Schweder found general support for the idea of central dispatching for all the departments in the county. Witt-Schulte said concerns surfaced over who would run such a service and from where.

Aurora Fire Chief Robert Ward, Lawrence County Sheriff Brad DeLay and Schweder agreed to form a subcommittee to talk about options and develop a proposal that could be taken to the county commission. Witt-Schulte described the meeting as a positive step.

Operations updates

Rhonda Divine has joined the dispatching staff, Witt-Schulte reported, taking Amanda Bryan's position. Bryan will remain a reserve dispatcher.

Shasta Schmidt is developing an education program on 911 that can be taken to schools and preschools. Schmidt role plays emergency situations with children and shows them how to use the phone. Any group interested in having Schmidt speak can contact Witt-Schulte at 235-4241.

Pam Compton is creating fliers and new registration forms for those wishing to participate in the daily well-being checks. At present, only one person is using the free service. Fliers will be distributed through Loaves and Fishes. Anyone wanting to have a daily call can contact the police station.

The next advisory board meeting will be held on June 15.

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