Lake County is scrambling to buy a new dispatch console, the interface system dispatchers utilize to communicate 911 calls to different emergency response agencies.
In early April, Lake County Sheriff Amy Reyes was notified that the county’s dispatch console would not be supported after May 31. Though the console could function without issue for months or years to come, it is risky to go forward without a maintenance or repair option.
“We really can’t gamble on this,” Lake County Office of Emergency Management Director Mike McHargue told the Herald. “Could the console last longer? Possibly, but it is a risk as when it fails we will not be able to receive 911 calls.”
Reyes is currently weighing the pros and cons of three different console options. She is leaning towards a Motorola product for its user simplicity and lower price point. The Motorola price tag will likely amount to around $130,000 not including a servicing agreement or warranty.
Though nothing has been formalized, the county’s emergency response agencies will likely share the cost of the console based upon call volume. In 2018, about 48 percent of 911 calls were dispatched to Lake County Sheriff’s Office, 38 percent to the Leadville Police Department, eight percent to Leadville/Lake County Fire-Rescue and six percent to St. Vincent Hospital’s ambulance service.
Stakeholders are also considering going to Climax, the Leadville Race Series, Ski Cooper and others who utilize the county’s radio and dispatch services for a one-time donation.
“This is imperative to emergency services,” Commissioner Kayla Marcella said at a Board of County Commissioners meeting earlier this week. “I don’t want to put off paying for this.”
The county also faces other 911-related issues.
Many of the county’s emergency response agencies use two radio systems: a Digital Trunked Radio System mandated by the state and a Very High Frequency system that was in place before DTRS. According to a variety of emergency responders, DTRS does not work well in many parts of the county and responders are often forced to rely on VHF.
In May, a power surge destroyed a technical component of dispatch’s paging system. Subsequently the ambulance service did not receive a page for a medical call and Reyes had to transport a man in cardiac arrest to the hospital by herself.
Since the incident, Reyes said she has asked agencies to scan all radio channels and never rely solely on the paging system. “We don’t know when or if it’s going to fail again,” Reyes said.
A variety of agencies’ handheld and mobile radios are also aging and need to be replaced.
McHargue believes the county needs to develop a technical roadmap for the coming years. Such a plan would include a comprehensive inventory of technical equipment and capital planning for systematic replacement of radios and other equipment.
McHargue also hopes to raise the county’s monthly 911 surcharge from 70 cents to two dollars. The surcharge is a tax applied to phone bills that helps pay for emergency telephone services.
“If we don’t increase our revenue we are going to have this problem annually,” McHargue told the Herald.
Reyes and the BOCC will review the three console contracts on Monday, in hopes of moving forward with the best fit. An inter-agency cost-sharing agreement will likely follow.