Cass County continues to explore 911/Public Safety Communications Outsourcing

News

October 16th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Board of Supervisors and local authorities today (Wednesday) briefly discussed the possibility of outsourcing 911/Public Safety Communications to a New Jersey-based company. As we reported last week, Board Chair Mark Wedemeyer  said he had been in contact with iXP Corporation officials regarding their services.

Cass County Board of Supervisors

Cass County Board of Supervisors

Wedemeyer said he received a letter from iXP, whose officials said there are only five counties in the country and four or five-municipalities who are utilizing their services.  Wedemeyer said he chose to explore the matter because he thinks the County has “The fiduciary responsibility to look into the possibility.”

iXP’s Ben Archer-Clowes, Regional Director of New Business Development in Cranston, NJ, told Wedemeyer that the information Wedemeyer provided to the company was not enough for them to investigate the potential savings for the County, and a study would be needed. The study would cost $12,500.

The Board and other local officials, such as Cass County Sheriff Darby McLaren and Atlantic Police Chief Steve Green, may hold a conference call with iXP to get some of their questions answered. Green said he wanted “ample time” to conduct more research and contact other departments to find out what their current wage and benefit scales are now, as opposed to what they were before iXP came. He said he has a hard time believing it would be cost effective unless the company comes in and lowers the wages, but Wedemeyer said the company has assured him that’s not the case.

Wedemeyer said also, iXP “Has a complete array” of options for how their service can run for the County. He says it’s possible for the company to own the equipment and a local site. They would also likely hire the current staff. Archer-Clowes said while iXP is very interested in talking with County officials more, they have never used their services for a county as small as Cass.

Wedemeyer said since the news Cass County was investigating the potential of privatizing 911/Public Safety Communications, one other, unidentified county in Iowa has called him to inquire about the same thing. Cass County Sheriff Darby McLaren said he and Chief Steve Green are curious to know if the County can actually save money by moving the service to a private company, and if the quality and control would remain as it is now.

Wedemeyer said they expect to increase the quality of service, or “at least keep it as good as it is.” Green also wondered about the ability of his officers to deal with any issues that might arise between the Communications Center and law enforcement out on the street, when a private company is in control. He says right now, he has local input from the Sheriff and 9-1-1 Director when there’s a problem. Wedemeyer said the issue of local control would be included in an agreement with the company, that also stipulates that iXP would be penalized if they don’t meet the qualifications that are set out in the terms of the contract.

Among the concerns some from the community have expressed, is would 9-1-1 calls be directed to the company in New Jersey, or locally. Wedemeyer said it would be local. Another question was how much money would it save the County? Wedemeyer said they don’t know, and that’s part of the research that is underway. It might cost the County more than it currently pays in wages and benefits for 911 Operators and dispatchers.

County Recorder Joyce Jensen asked whether it was prudent to explore a company out of state to provide the service, and that someone in New Jersey might not be aware of “How things in Iowa work.” Afterward, Atlantic City Councilman Steve Livengood said he has sat on the Public Safety Commission for 8-years, and to his knowledge, the issue of privatizing emergency communications was never brought up, but Wedemeyer did bring the matter to the Commission during its meeting on September 23rd, although it was just to gauge how they would feel about him looking into the matter further.