Sheriff outlines plan to change county's 911 system

Updated: Apr 9

MOUND CITY – Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend and Information Technology (IT) Director Chris Martin presented a proposal to the Linn County Commission about contracting out the 911 service to the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) on Monday, March 14.

Friend told the commissioners that he and Martin had been researching the project for the last several years but had worked extensively over the last six to eight months see how they could implement the MARC system in Linn County.

Friend said that it was project that would cause the county to operate or use and maintain the county’s 911 system a little bit differently and more effectively. It would also give he and Martin a little bit of freedom from 911, as well as allow the county to use MARC as a contractor.

Currently MARC serves 119 cities and nine counties in two states. They service Ray, Clay, Platte, Jackson, and Cass counties in Missouri. In Kansas, they service Leavenworth, Wyandotte, Johnson and Miami counties.

Of the 105 counties in Kansas, 103 of them are involved in some sort of 911 consortium, said Friend. There is only one other county, Brown County, that does it the way Linn County does it, said Friend.

Friend explained that the 911 tax income fund is a Linn County tax, but it is regulated by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and the federal government. The reason they do that is to insure that the money that is collected by that taxation is properly spent. So there are a lot of rules and regulatory measures that have to be met in order to spend those tax dollars.

In 2017, the Linn County Commission approved a resolution that agreed with the federal regulation, that the sheriff would be in charge of that operation and have the availability to spend those 911 dollars. The sheriff said his office had the ability to make the change, but he wanted to bring it to the commission because it is a long-term process that he and Martin believe will save Linn County a good amount of money.

Friend said that the other options that they had looked at were KS 911, but MARC was a better offer in the end. For the county to operate 911 on its own, would cost $40,000 to $60,000 a year.

Friend explained that the county equipment was due for a refresh this year and when they did that in 2016, it cost $104,000. MARC will charge the county 60 percent of what the county would have had to pay for the upgrade.

The annual fee for MARC will be $40,600 per year or $3,300 per month. This is based on the county’s 2020 census numbers and will not be revisited until the 2030 census. MARC will maintain and repair everything from dispatchers’ headsets to servers.

Friend told the commissioners that they pay Lumen Technologies, previously CenturyLink, about $20,000 to $30,000 per year for the 911 service. But if they contract with MARC, they will take care of that bill. They take care of everything for the system.

Friend told the commissioners that some of the county’s 911 equipment is so old that the county cannot get maintenance contracts on it, so that work has fallen on Martin. Friend said that his department takes a load of Martin’s time just working on the sheriff’s 911 equipment.

He said they were bringing it to the commissioners today because it is going to affect the time frame of the move of communications. The county can’t join MARC in a day, and the county probably will not be able to move its dispatch system until July or August.

Friend told the commissioners that the 911 tax had brought in $161,000 in 2021, $199,000 in 2020, $169,00 in 2019, $136,000 in 2018, $88,000 in 2017, $51,000 in 2016, and $86,000 in 2015.

“I tell you that (the amount of money collected) because what I want the commission to really have an understanding for is that you represent the people and this project would be a service to the people. It’s a pure service because when you call 911 you have expectations.

MARC will have two lines that come to Linn County and there will be no redundancy. So if one of the lines gets cut, the other one is still working. An example of this is if an AT&T line in Miami County gets cut, and CenturyLink is connected on that line further down, CenturyLink will be cut off also. The lines will not be connected together anywhere.

Friend said that he did not need a grand approval or a resolution. But he added that a head nod would be worth everything, because then he could say that the people who represented the people believe this is the best action.

The commissioners agreed that this was the best option and started problem solving with Friend and Martin about the need for a generator to continue to run the dispatch office in the old building through July or August until the office moves to the Justice Center. The generator currently at the sheriff’s office will be moved to the Justice Center when it opens.

Discussion was held about moving the generator from the emergency management office in Pleasanton to the old dispatch office. The generator at the dispatch office also runs the telephones and other equipment in the court house. At present, according to Martin, the generator at the emergency management is underutilized for its size and would be a better fit for the dispatch office.

County Clerk David Lamb, said that Emergency Management Coordinator Doug Barlet had expressed his concern that this was happening during storm season.

A smaller generator on a trailer will be moved to the emergency management office until a more permanent generator is purchased.

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