Wisc. Communities Enter Cost-Sharing Deal on 9-1-1
Three area communities appear to be on the cutting edge in the method that 9-1-1 emergency service is provided.
Muskego, Mukwonago and Elm Grove will share the cost of upgrading their aging 9-1-1 systems to a new system that will serve all three communities. The arrangement will enable each community to keep its own dispatchers, which is seen as an advantage because local dispatchers know their communities best.
The new equipment will be located in the Muskego dispatch center. Emergency 9-1-1 calls will come in and be electronically directed to dispatch centers in the communities where the calls originated, said Muskego Police Chief Craig Moser.
This appears to be a real breakthrough in keeping 9-1-1 costs down and service up, said Mukwonago Police Chief Kevin Schmidt.
“This is probably the future for a lot of communities,” Schmidt said.
Other communities have asked about joining the three but instead are being helped to form their own cooperatives, he said. “We wanted to start out small because this is a new concept and we want to make sure it works well,” he said.
But there will be room for others to join later.
The system will be only for 9-1-1 calls made from land lines. Cellphone 9-1-1 calls will continue to be picked up by the Waukesha County Communications Center.
Cost break a relief
Officials in all three communities are relieved that the expensive 9-1-1 upgrades that all three need will not be as costly as they had thought.
“It’s going to save a whole bunch of money and allow us to purchase better equipment,” said Elm Grove Village Manager David De Angelis, a former Muskego mayor.
“We’ve been working on a 9-1-1 solution for the better part of seven or eight years,” he said. “Technology finally caught up to what we’re trying to do.”
The upgraded 9-1-1 digital system will be an improvement on Elm Grove’s analog system, he said. It won’t necessarily be quicker, but it will be more reliable, he said.
Each community will provide an initial outlay of about $75,000 to purchase the equipment. Operating costs over a period of seven years will amount to about $237,165, to be split three ways.
Schmidt said that cost sharing is a big help.
“For the last three years we’ve been setting a little money aside for the upgrade. Then we got the quotes and they were more than I have,” he said.
Without the cooperative arrangement, each community would have spent more than $400,000 on their upgrades, Moser said.
The shared upgrade was the idea of Muskego information technology director John Wisniewski, Moser said. Muskego started looking around for partners and quickly came up with Mukwonago and Elm Grove.
“We knew they were looking at updating too,” Moser said. Both communities have older systems, as Muskego does, he said.
Many meetings took place among the three departments before the details were worked out.
Local dispatch preserved
Besides the significant cost savings, Moser likes it that Muskego and the other communities will be able to keep their own dispatch centers. To save money, some departments such as New Berlin have opted to have the Waukesha County Communications Center answer all 9-1-1 calls.
But Muskego didn’t go that route.
“Our dispatchers are familiar with the city and the people we are in contact with,” he said. Also, if crucial information arises during the first shift, it’s easy to pass it along to the second shift, making officers on the street safer, he said. Such messages might be lost in a large dispatch center, he said.
Moser also said the occasional citizen complaint can be swiftly dealt with when the dispatch center is in-house.