Although it hasn’t been reported on very widely, Monroe County Government and the City of Bloomington are currently collaborating in building a new Unified Dispatch Center for all of Monroe County’s public safety agencies on the second floor of the new Bloomingon Transit Hub. This new dispatch center will replace the antiquated joint dispatch center in the Bloomington Police Station. Besides the new building, a key upgrade will be a new Computer-Aided Dispatch/Records Management System that will greatly increase our ability to respond more quickly and accurately to 911 calls.
Last month, the County Council appropriated $1.8M out of the general fund for its share of the furnishing of the new dispatch center (the City and the County have yet to come up with a final agreement on what constitutes equitable distribution of the costs). Debates will continue at the County in future months about how much our contribution should be, for what purposes, and how to fund the remaining costs of construction and furnishing.
Ongoing operations of the dispatch center (i.e. dispatch personnel, software maintenance, etc.) will also be funded from several sources, both City and County. The County also has access to a revenue stream that is dedicated to the funding of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), of which the dispatch center is one. This revenue comes from the E911 fees paid by landline, wireless, and prepaid wireless telephone users, and currently generates around $689K annually. However, this doesn’t cover anywhere near the costs of actually operating the dispatch center, which currently employes 25+ dispatchers. Another important policy question to be resolved is whether the other public safety agencies that are dispatched (e.g. fire departments, hospital) should pay anything towards the operation, since the Unified Dispatch Center would be providing services to them.
At last week’s County Council Work Session, I gave a short presentation on (a) the history and current state of the 911 revenue stream and (b) the interlocal agreements between the city and county, in order to give councilors some context for future decision-making on dispatch center operations. Several people have asked me for a copy of my presentation, so I thought I would include it hear. At some point when I have time I will add some additional explanatory text.