Cass County Supervisors to discuss privatizing emergency/public communications


October 10th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

On the heels of a Public Safety Commission meeting held Sept 23rd,  the Cass County Board of Supervisors next Wednesday will discuss the possibility of privatizing Emergency/Public Safety Communications. When informed by KJAN News about the Board’s agenda item, Cass County 9-1-1 Director Rob Koppert said he wasn’t aware it would be brought up at next week’s meeting, and as far as he knew, neither was anyone on the Commission. The topic was brought up at the September meeting by Supervisors Board Chair Mark Wedemeyer, who also sits on the Public Safety Communications Commission.

Koppert said at that meeting that he wasn’t aware of any firms in Iowa or around the region that would handle 9-1-1 calls in the private sector. In fact, there are very few instances across the country, where emergency dispatch services have been turned over from County-run operations to a private provider. One such case is Lawrence Township, in Mercer County, NJ., which in January, 2013, agreed to hired iXP Corporation out of Cranbury, NJ, to handle its 9-1-1 dispatches.  iXP was awarded a two-year, $719,400 contract to run police dispatch for the community, whose population as of the 2010 Census was nearly 33,500. It was estimated the move would save the county $1.1-million over a period of 5-years.

Another is Sandy Springs, GA, an incorporated suburb of Atlanta with 94,000 residents, which has its 9-1-1 dispatch center also operated by iXP. The theory behind privatizing the service is to save a County money, but there are many questions that remain, including: A private firm’s hiring practices – would current dispatchers with knowledge of the county be utilized?; Where would the facility be located?; Will the service be as efficient as the current system? And more.

Koppert said he will find out along with the rest of us, what next Wednesday’s discussion will cover, and to what extent the County will pursue the privatization of emergency/public communications.