Various factors prompt communications upgrade

A variety of circumstances led to the recent decision two weeks ago to spend $48,000?plus up to $15,000 more?to upgrade the county communications center at the Marion County Jail.

Michelle Abbot, director of Communications and Emer?gency Management for Marion County, said the money needed for the remodeling project approved by the Marion County Commission, will mainly come from a 911 grant and funds saved over from a former project, not new tax money.

Abbott said the grant from the state comes from a 50-cent fee each cellular phone user pays. Since about 70 percent of the county?s 911 emergency calls are generated from cellular phones rather than land lines, she said that makes a 70 percent state 911 grant available.

The remodeling project makes possible a third station to be added in the communications center to help solve a problem of the two existing stations being overwhelmed, particularly in surge events such as severe weather updates, Abbott said.

Without the third station, the center isn?t able to perform up to required levels for public safety, she explained.

?It?s partly a matter of computer capacity,? she said.

At the same time this happened, the jail lost its outside contractors for prisoner meals, and the meals require space for preparation at the jail, she said. The meal needs cramped already tight space for the communications center, she said.

The remodeling will involve moving walls to increase space, improving lighting, updating electrical configurations for inclusion of the third station and adding new items such as a garbage disposal and hot water heater, according to the architect?s plans.

The project comes while a public committee is considering jail needs with the possibility of building new facilities.

The commissioners said the updated communications center can be used for new office space if a new jail and communication center is built.

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