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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Monett 911 extends reach

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Monett's dispatching service has completed preparations to provide 911 service to Verona. Details were shared at the quarterly meeting of Monett's 911 Advisory Board.

Dispatching supervisor Bonnie Witt-Schulte said dispatching for Verona will begin on Oct. 1. An average of 50 calls a month are expected, not enough to warrant an increase in Monett's staffing levels. Verona will pay Monett $175 a month for the service.

Monett will also activate the storm sirens in Verona.

Data for each emergency responder, from firemen, law enforcement, and utilities crews who will respond to Verona calls has been entered into Monett's database.

The home database, with addresses, remains in the hands of Lawrence County and will continue to be maintained by AT&T. Witt-Schulte said it was up to the Verona City Council to work out details for Monett to have access to the information, which will be forwarded with each call. Lawrence County still collects a land-line surcharge for phones in Verona.

Monett's dispatching service will receive a new recording device for phone calls in the near future. The old machine, dating back more than 10 years, stopped working and the city has relied on a loaner unit for the past 18 months. Parts are not available for the loaner either, Witt-Schulte said.

The recording machine will cost around $30,000 and the expenditure has already been budgeted. Five vendors have proposed replacements and will offer a demonstration on Oct. 10.

Unlike the old machine, which was accessible from only one dispatching station, Witt-Schulte said the city wants to buy something that can be accessed from each dispatching desk. Consideration will also focus on how easily dispatchers can search the memory bank and pull up the call in question for review.

Work has been finished reprogramming all of the system's consoles, radios and storm sirens to the narrow band frequencies mandated by the Federal Communications Commission. Witt-Schulte said all of the radio units had to have another number added on to each device's frequency designation.

The portable radios and consoles were switched to the new bands in April as part of the 2011-12 fiscal year budget. Recoding the storm sirens was only recently completed. Witt-Schulte said changing the storm sirens alone cost around $20,000.

Revenues for the 911 service continue to decline from the land line surcharge. In the first quarter of 2012, Monett received $6,091 from lines served in Lawrence County. In the second quarter, revenue dropped to $5,694.

City Administrator Dennis Pyle said the reserve of funds designated for 911 use would be used up in March 2013. After that, revenues from Lawrence County and support from the city's general fund would entirely support the city's 911 operation.

In upcoming activities, the dispatching service will participate in a hazardous materials drill with Cox Monett Hospital on Sept. 26. City fire and police agencies plus the Barry-Lawrence Ambulance District will join the effort.

The drill will provide an opportunity to see how well dispatching can work with the hospital, especially in providing an alert for how many incoming patients to expect in a disaster. Witt-Schulte said contingency plans will be tested for alerting area hospitals to see how many beds are available in a disaster scenario.

Staff are also involved in making presentations on 911 to pre-school and elementary students in Monett.

Little progress has been seen in other areas. Witt-Schulte reported conversations have been held with Lawrence County officials about assisting as a possible interim dispatch center while the county moves its dispatching operation. No decisions appeared likely before the Nov. 6 election.

The audit of Monett's 911 database by OnPoint came to a halt. The director for Springfield/Greene County dispatching service, the only person familiar with the data needed to conduct the audit, went on medical leave and then retired. Witt-Schulte is looking for another resource to guide her through the audit process.

At a recent 911 directors' meeting attended by Witt-Schulte, it was reported the Missouri General Assembly appeared to be at a standstill in resolving 911 funding, especially involving cell phone users. It appears each county will now have to take its own case to the voters.

A new communications officer is being sought to fill the vacancy at the dispatching center. The service has seven full-time staff members plus Witt-Schulte. At present, 911 supervisor Karen Brown is absent on medical leave, prompting overtime for the remaining staff to fill in. With the extensive testing required and a background check, Witt-Schulte hoped to fill the position by mid-November.

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