News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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October 12, 2012

E911 Department facing reduced funding, changing costs

TERRE HAUTE — At the same time Vigo County’s E911 Department is facing reduced revenue — state funding has been cut at least $65,000 — officials have learned that Indiana’s Statewide 911 Board has ruled that mobile devices are ineligible to be funded through 911 fees.

That leaves individual departments responsible for paying for air cards and cellular phones used by emergency responders.

“It means our budget costs will go up,” said Terre Haute Fire Chief Jeff Fisher, chairman of the Vigo County E911 Advisory Board.

The city fire department has about 15 air cards, used for mobile Internet access for computer aided dispatch and writing reports. Each card costs about $30 a month. The city of Terre Haute will be hit hardest, as city police and fire departments, which includes ambulances, have 96 air cards, said E911 director Rob McMullen.

The Vigo County Sheriff Department, along with Sugar Creek and Honey Creek Fire Departments, the West Terre Haute Police Department and the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency have 67 air cards.

The state as of July 1 is now providing Vigo County’s E911 Department with $51,137 a month, or about $613,000 a year, which is down about $9,000 a month from a year ago, McMullen said.

As a way to offset lost revenue, the advisory board discussed costs associated with police calls, such as license checks and police warrant checks from other departments such as West Terre Haute Police and the Seelyville Town Marshall. Those police calls add to the cost of the county’s central dispatch department. Commissioner Mike Ciolli, a member of the advisory board, said the board could approve and present to the Vigo County Council a specific-use fee for such police checks that could help pay for costs of central dispatch.

In other matters, the board approved $9,000 to extend a secure E911 fiber connection about 375 feet from the Vigo County Juvenile Center south to a married student housing building owned by Indiana State University.

The fiber optic connection would connect E911 to ISU’s Police Department.

“This would give a static connection to university police to ensure they are able to answer 911 calls that originate from ISU’s campus without the fear of losing the connection if power is disrupted,” McMullen said.

“Currently if the power goes out at the ISU’s parking garage/bus terminal, where the current connection is, the ability for university police to answer 911 calls is compromised,” McMullen said. “This does not mean the 911 calls go unanswered, the 911 calls are rerouted and answered by Vigo County Central Dispatch and the information is then relayed to ISU via one of ISU’s administrative phone lines,” McMullen said.

In a separate matter, McMullen told the board that the county’s central dispatch is now a national call center partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. McMullen said the partnership means dispatchers have been trained with procedures and questions to help determine how and when a child under 17 is reported missing.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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