By Rod Rose
For the Times Sentinel
Meeting a deadline to qualify for a $100,000 grant, the Boone County Commissioners Tuesday, Jan. 22, approved a contract to upgrade public safety communications by installing a software suite.
The contract with AT&T and InterAct is subject to the Boone County Council’s approval of the first-year cost; the council will consider a request for that amount at its Feb. 4 meeting. On Jan. 8, the council approved a resolution giving conditional approval of the funding.
“If we don’t move forward today, we lose $100,000,” Sheriff Ken Campbell told the commissioners before they approved the contract. The grant is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Areas Security Initiative.
With the UASI grant, the county will need $569,710, including $36,192 for new hardware, to install InterAct’s software suite, which offers computer-aided dispatch, mapping, mobile communications, online service, jail management and fire reporting management modules.
Advantages of InterAct’s program include giving of the county’s nine fire departments the ability to share emergency response plans while en route to fires or disasters, and police agencies the ability to share information about investigations.
Money the county will receive in 911 fees now being collected by the state should cover the system’s expenses “other than two or three years,” Campbell said.
A estimate prepared by Boone County Sheriff’s Office Major Mike Nielsen projects a shortage of 911 funding of $98,368 in 2019, and of $42,045 in 2020.
Until this year, 911 funding had been supported by user fees on land lines and cellphones, but varied from county to county. The Indiana General Assembly changed that, ordering that 911 fees be collected in a pool and distributed by the state treasurer.
Campbell said he’s been told by State Treasurer Barry Ritter’s office that Boone County will receive just more than $721,000 in 911 funding this year; $728,347 in 2014; and $742,954 from the pool, plus a one-time annual payout of $10,000 through 2023.
In a presentation to the council earlier this month, Nielsen said the annual payout is “a best guess,” but he expects it to be higher. Ritter’s office told him that telecom companies are seeing higher-than-predicted income from the 911 fees, Nielsen told the council.