Vinton County Voters To Consider 9-1-1 Levy (audio)

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Voters in Vinton County have several issues to consider on Tuesday’s ballot, including a levy that would upgrade the county’s aging 9-1-1 dispatch center equipment.

The levy is for five-years at three-tenths (0.3) of one mill. The owner of a $100,000 house in Vinton County will pay $10.50 per year if the levy passes.

This is expected to be a one-time levy, with no renewal currently slated for the 2020 election.

The equipment at the dispatch center was installed in 2002 at the Sheriff’s Office in McArthur, where the center is still located. The chair of the Vinton County Public Safety Communications Committee, Jim Beckner, says numerous changes in technology have made the system obsolete.

“In the past few years, it has become hard to find the equipment needed to update the current system.”

Beckner, who also serves as the chief of the Hamden Fire Department, says there are numerous reasons as to why new equipment is important to citizens.

“Part of the reason for the upgrade is that the current 9-1-1 system will not allow us to locate people with cellphones as close as the new system will. Also, the current system will not accept 9-1-1 text messages, [while] the new one will…the consoles for Fire, EMS, and law enforcement throughout the county are also not digitally compatible.”

Acting McArthur Police Chief Mike Kemmerling says the new system will allow officers to respond faster to service calls and will strengthen communication between public safety agencies throughout the county. Kemmerling was recently hired as acting chief and comes to McArthur’s city police department from the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office.

“Coming from the Sheriff’s Office, I have seen firsthand the antiquated dispatch system…I’ve had many cases in my history where you get a call but you don’t get an address, you have violent crimes where someone is taking the phone away…we need to get to these people.”

The Federal Communications Commission requires all systems to change from analog to digital. Beckner says local departments were able to update to digital through state funding, but the county dispatch system was not eligible for grant funds.

“We were fortunate that the state fire marshal’s office had a grant program where all of the individual departments in the county could update their equipment to digital. But, this wasn’t the case on the department side at the control point (the Sheriff’s Office in McArthur).”

Kemmerling has a son who works as a dispatch supervisor in Franklin County. He says there is a large difference in the equipment between the two counties.

“It’s like night and day.”

If voters approve the levy, the County Commissioners will receive $360,000 over the next five years to buy the equipment. Beckner says no money will go to personnel costs.

An information sheet from the levy committee says updates to the dispatch system would be able to begin as soon as next year.