Utah County cities could have an enhanced 911 emergency system in place within two years if they approve a monthly 50-cent surcharge per residential phone line.
County Commissioner Brent Morris said he is preparing a letter for cities throughout the county outlining the cost of implementing the system and how much time is needed to put it in place. The letter also will ask mayors whether their citizens would support the 50-cent surcharge.The E911 system uses computers to display the address and phone number where a call originates as soon as a dispatcher answers the call.
Weber County is using E911, and Salt Lake and Davis counties are installing their own E911 systems.
If Utah County cities approve the surcharge, Morris said, the county will use the money to update the current 911 system and prepare it for enhancement. He said the surcharge would be in place two years to raise funds for start-up costs, after which it could be lowered.
Several mayors from Utah County cities expressed support for the proposal during this month's Utah County Council of Governments meeting. But while they agreed that an E911 system makes a lot of safety and economical sense, others said the proposal likely will meet with opposition. Past discussion of a proposal to consolidate countywide dispatching services has yielded few results.
Dispatch services currently are provided by Orem, Pleasant Grove, Provo, Springville and the county central dispatch. All 911 calls go through
Orem, which in turn routes calls to the other centers.
Under the E911 system, from one to five dispatch centers known as public safety answering points (PSAPs) would be installed. The more PSAPs, the higher the initial installation and maintenance costs.
Bill Jensen, Mountain Bell customer support specialist, said sophisticated telephone equipment and accompanying monitors needed to set up PSAPs would cost the county approximately $500,000. Purchase and installation of data base equipment from Mountain Bell would run another $175,000, and monthly maintenance costs about $18,000. In addition, telephone lines to and from Utah County and a Salt Lake control office would cost approximately another $20,000, not including monthly charges of about $10,000.
"Our position is that we're more than anxious to support any configuration they want," Jensen said regarding the number of PSAPs the county wants installed.
Morris suggests the county install only two PSAPs, one in Provo and one in Orem to service south county cities and north county cities, respectively. "It's not worth the money to install more than two PSAPs just to perpetuate turf battles," he said.
Salt Lake County, with 330,000 phone lines, plans to reduce PSAPs from an original request of five to three. Utah County has 75,396 lines.
By initiating the 50-surcharge, the county will be able to raise $37,698 monthly and fund installation of an E911 system without having to finance the system. Some county cities likely will not support the system, but its advantages are worth its cost, Morris said.
He said one of the biggest advantages of E911 is that young children or incapacitated adults will be able to report emergencies just by dialing 911 even if they can't speak or don't know their address.
"They (dispatchers) may not know what happened, but they'll know where it happened," Jensen said. In addition to showing dispatchers where calls originate, the E911 system routes calls to the nearest PCAP, thus cutting response time.
"It helps the dispatchers to do their jobs more efficiently. It cuts response time," Jensen said. "There are a lot of applications, obviously."