The Porter County
Board of Commissioners approved an investment of $893,680.69 in a new phone
system for the E911 Department at its meeting Tuesday.
Scott McClure said the purchase, of Motorola’s CallWorks emergency call
handling software, would be paid off by 2027 as part of a 9-year lease, the
first payment of which is in the amount of $111,836.18 and due January 2019.
The payments will be interest free for the first three years, and there are
no penalties for prepayment.
that the first payment will be figured into the Commissioner’s 2019 budget
under the 911 upgrade line item, the purse for which, he says, should be
able to withstand the added cost. “We believe we’re gonna be able to move
some things around to be able to absorb this without asking for more from
Director Gina Kennedy explained the phone system 911 uses now is not only at
its end of life, but also lacks features that could make emergency response
more efficient. Employees from the County IT Department and the call center
gave input that helped the Department settle on Motorola CallWorks, which
provides a map of where calls are coming from so a caller can be located
before a dispatcher answers the phone. This is especially useful for
checking on people who make hang-up calls, Kennedy said. According to
Kennedy, the current system also doesn’t allow for immediate replay of a
call. Dispatchers currently have to log into a separate system to play back
a recent call. The new system eliminates that step. In accordance with the
new software, the call center will self-fund updates to its hardware over
the next five years.
Biggs, R-North, asked how the dispatchers will be trained in the new system.
Kennedy responded that Motorola provides eight days of training for
employees before the new system goes live. Before employees even train on
the new system, they can learn the ins and outs of it with a program called
CallWorks University. When the switch from one system to another goes live,
representatives from Motorola will be on hand at the call center to field
questions or troubleshoot for the first 24 hours.
In another big
investment, the Commissioners approved the purchase of new body and vehicle
cameras for the Porter County Sheriff’s Department. The purchase will cost
$468,000 over five years.
Reynolds was away at a national conference on Tuesday, so Chief Deputy Jeff
Biggs explained the choice of cameras from Utility Associates Inc. Biggs
reported that deputies have been testing different body cameras and found
that many models pop off of their shirts or vests. The model the deputies
have choosen from Utility Associates is similar to a cellphone and locks
into place better than most. The vehicle cameras have built in license plate
readers. Both cameras come with unlimited cloud storage and are supported by
wifi boosters that fit in the trunk of a police car, providing wifi for a
range of three or four football fields around the car. Biggs reported that
the Valparaiso Police Department is already using the same model with
Biggs said the
first two payments for the cameras, each $117,000, will come from drug
seizure money. McClure said the cameras will cost about $58,000 per year to
maintain, and that will be funded from the general fund, pending approval
from the County Council. He added, “I think it’s a good contract, a good
product, and it couldn’t be better.”
Good noted that the
County is going from analog to digital systems with both the new 911
upgrades and body cameras, and the choice to buy these cameras will align
with the new 911 systems to streamline emergency response. Commissioner
Laura Blaney, D-south, noted that body cameras can also help cross the
divide where the public has lost trust in police.
business, the Commissioners passed on first reading an ordinance
establishing a law enforcement recordings fee of $150 for anyone who wishes
to request footage from sheriff’s body or vehicle cams under the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA). McClure said a recently passed state statute allows
municipalities to charge up to $150 for FOIA requests for copies of footage
taken by law enforcement. According to McClure, the fee is intended to
defray the cost of storing, maintaining, and acquiring the cameras and
training people in their use, as well as fielding FOIA requests and
duplicating footage. Chief Biggs said, though $150 may seem excessive, it
can cost upwards of $600 to repair or replace one camera.
No one spoke for or
against the ordinance during a public hearing. The Board will perform a
second reading at its next meeting, July 10.