After voters approved a new 911 tax this spring, work is underway for the centralized Sedalia/Pettis County 911 Dispatch Center.
For the last month, Pettis County residents should have noticed a $1 increase to their cellular and landline phone bills. The increase is the result of the voter-approved tax in April to provide funding for the centralized dispatch center. Collection of taxes began Oct. 1 on all devices capable of calling 911 with the exception of prepaid cellular devices. Tax rates for prepaid cellular devices increased in January.
Although revenue collected will not be sent to the county until Jan. 1, city and county officials are already working to make the new dispatch center a reality.
“There are a lot of procedures and details that have to be worked out,” Pettis County Presiding Commissioner David Dick explained. “Even though those details may seem small, they are extremely important to get right. We don’t want there to be errors when a call comes in because a person’s life may be at stake.”
Pettis County 911/GIS Director James Theisen is responsible for overseeing the committee and work on the project.
“Going from two stand-alone 911 PSAPs to a 911 central dispatch center has a lot of moving parts,” Theisen said. “I have confidence in the committee to work through them and put forth the best 911 they can provide.”
A five-member 911 advisory board has been established to review the needs and concerns of the central dispatch and make recommendations to the 911 director and the County Commission.
The board consists of:
• Chief Matt Wirt representing Sedalia Police Department
• Chief Greg Harrell representing Sedalia Fire Department
• Sheriff Kevin Bond representing Pettis County Sheriff’s Office
• EMS Chief Eric Dirck representing Pettis County Ambulance District
• Theisen representing the Pettis County Commission by appointment
According to Theisen, the board and dispatch supervisors have visited a few 911 centers to get ideas for the new Pettis County Central Dispatch Center. The committee meets regularly to discuss the needs, abilities and standards for the center.
“The governance would remain with the County of Pettis,” Theisen explained. “The City doesn’t have the ability to impose a countywide tax and the tax doesn’t generate enough money to be self-sufficient for a board-ran 911 center.”
In January prior to passage of the tax, the 911 Conceptual Committee recommended the following payments:
• The County will pay $200,000 annually toward the project
• The City will pay $300,000 annually for the project
• The Pettis County Ambulance District will contribute $150,000
Prior to the passage of the tax, 911 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) were funded by two landline tariffs. The total revenue collected in 2018 was $90,523, leaving a $1 million shortfall. That shortfall was paid for by the City of Sedalia and the Pettis County General Revenue Funds. PCAD contributed $125,000.
According to officials, the new tax is expected to generate between $500,000 to $700,000 annually for the joint 911 center.
The committee has recommended the central dispatch be located in the basement of the Sedalia City Hall, where SPD dispatch is currently located. According to Theisen, “the space is secure, centrally located and has enough room to facilitate the needs for central dispatch.”
Theisen added the city will need to contract with the county for the space it is providing.
The new facility will be manned by a staff of 18 full-time dispatchers and a 911 director. This will allow for four dispatchers to be on duty at all times.
Theisen previously told the Democrat most of the dispatch equipment used at the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office is older than many of the individuals who are operating it. Current equipment used in the Sheriff’s office is also analog, which could eventually create problems when trying to communicate with law enforcement digital radio systems. Replacing that equipment is a large portion of the estimated $1.2 million facility.
Current plans call for establishing a six-position central dispatch center on a digital platform with next-generation equipment and a new digital radio platform according to Theisen.
The new dispatch center is expected to be operational in October 2020.