County Explores Cost of 9-1-1 Equipment

Barnes County officials held an informative meeting with representatives from Stutsman and Richland Counties and Independent Emergency Services, a provider of 9-1-1 networks and equipment, on Wednesday to discuss options and costs for replacing the county’s aged 9-1-1 equipment.

Currently, Barnes County owns its 9-1-1 equipment, which is housed in the Valley City Police Department and operated under contract by the city. Earlier this year, county and city officials agreed to move the equipment to its own location within the Law Enforcement Center, but concerns about moving the antiquated equipment arose and officials now are looking at the most cost-effective way to replace it.

Discussions revolved around two options: entering a joint powers agreement with Stutsman and Richland Counties, entities that recently began operating 9-1-1 systems under their own joint powers agreement, or purchase stand-alone equipment for Barnes County.

The equipment in question would consist essentially of a 9-1-1 infrastructure and would not include computers, monitors and other equipment that would be housed within a 9-1-1 call center. The equipment would be “next generation” 9-1-1 ready.

The first scenario, the least expensive at approximately $123,000, would involve sharing that infrastructure with Stutsman and Richland Counties.
Under this scenario, Barnes County would still run its own dispatch center, with its own dispatchers, but with updated equipment.

The benefit of sharing would be that the system would provide back-up in the form of one of the other counties if the Barnes County system should ever go down because of a natural or other disaster, since the lines and equipment would be shared, according to Kim Franklin, Director of Barnes County Emergency Management Department. For example, if the Law Enforcement Center was ever destroyed by a tornado, 9-1-1 calls would roll-over to Stutsman (or Richland) County dispatchers.

Another advantage would be that upgrades and the cost of purchasing new equipment in the future would be negotiated as a joint power and shared.
Questions still remain as to the actual cost and more dialog would be required between the two counties before an agreement could be met.

The second scenario, at approximately $200,000, includes purchasing 9-1-1 equipment from IES that would belong exclusively to Barnes County. This purchase also would not include dispatch stations.

One drawback to this scenario would be that whoever operates the system would need to provide its own back-up, an issue that has been a contentious point in talks between Barnes County and Valley City over who should operate 9-1-1.

Another drawback would be that if equipment needed to be updated or replaced, it would have to come out of the county’s own coffers.

A third option was explored but determined to be not a good fit for Barnes County, according to Franklin. The county discussed becoming a member of the Red River Regional 9-1-1 system, but Red River was not open to forming a joint powers agreement. Under their “Memorandum of Understanding’” Barnes county would be responsible for updating its own system and keeping it current with Red River’s, which could be very expensive, said Franklin.

The Barnes County Commission will discuss 9-1-1 at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan 22.