Money targeted for 911 upgrade

The Marion County Commission encumbered $84,000 at its May 25 meeting to meet an expected future state mandate to upgrade 911 telephone equipment to locate cellular phone callers.

They took the action with a perhaps humorous precaution to Emergency Management Director Michelle Abbott-Becker, who only asked that the funds be dedicated, that “this doesn’t mean you can spend it.”

Abbott-Becker and Matthew McMakin, technical sales specialist for Southwestern Bell out of Kansas City, who is acting as consultant to the county, told commissioners the state legislature appears certain to mandate counties install equipment next year with the only question concerning how to fund it.

McMakin said charging a 50-cent surcharge to all cellular users has been discussed.

The equipment additions are expected to alleviate the growing problems with cellular emergency callers with dispatchers trying to locate where the calls come from, and even referring calls to neighboring counties where the calls actually are coming from.

For example, in an earlier commission meeting, Abbott-Becker said Marion County dispatchers sometimes receive calls from along the Kansas Turnpike, although none of the thoroughfare passes through the county.

Abbott-Becker contrasted this with line phones to homes and businesses, where the system pinpoints the name, address, direction and map to the address for emergency responders with sometimes an addition even to advise who the responder should be.

McMakin said the new equipment would be divided into two phases with phase one equipment relaying the area in a county where a caller is located to dispatchers. Phase 2 equipment, added at more expense, would further fine-tune the call to within 200 meters, perhaps saving the lives of injured persons unfamiliar with landmarks where they are at, he said.

The money allocated by the county is an amount currently estimated to cover both phases, Abbott-Becker said.

McMakin said the Phase 1 equipment can trace the area the call came from by determining which cellular tower the call came from, and which of the three faces of the tower sent the call. The Phase 2 equipment fine-tunes the location with methods such as triangulation.

It is necessary for Southwestern Bell to be involved, McMakin said, because all cellular calls enter the telephone system through the company’s equipment.

The commissioners received a letter from the Kansas Department of Property Evaluation that the County Appraiser’s Office is in compliance with state guidelines.

The commissioners approved low bids for herbicides for 360 gallons of 2,4-D amine from Markley Service for $3,222 and for 50 gallons of Vista from Ag Service for $3,457.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to approve a proposal by Jan Moffitt, health administrator, to provide a Marion County dietician once a month to Morris County to administer, for a 10-percent fee, a $1,500 grant for nutrition for women, infants and children just as the county already does for Dickinson County.

The commissioners were in executive session for department-head evaluations before and after the main meeting.

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