Bertie ponders E-911 future

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

WINDSOR – If you have the money, spend it.

That was the advice Bertie County’s Board of Commissioners received here last week in regards to upgrading the county’s E-911 emergency response system.

Richard Taylor, a member of the North Carolina Wireless 911 Board of Directors, addressed Bertie’s elected leaders on where the county stood on its E-911 system. By the end of his 40-minute presentation, Taylor suggested that the Commissioners immediately put the funds set aside for E-911 upgrades to work for the county citizens.

An audit of Bertie County’s finances for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004 revealed a combined total of $431,205 in a pair of 911 funds. Those funds generate cash thanks to a monthly surcharge on all telephone bills (typical landline phones and wireless phones). That amount has been higher, but some of the money has been spent on the county’s rural addressing procedure as well as other items necessary to operate an E-911 system.

Currently, Bertie has a landline E-911 system where a dispatcher in the Sheriff’s Office can identify callers by name and address if the call is placed from a normal residential or business phone. However, Taylor said that for Bertie to reach the next level, they must offer wireless E-911 from where a caller can summon emergency response teams from a cell phone.

&uot;I know that Bertie County is not a booming metropolis, but you are a little behind the eight ball when it comes to offering this type of technology,&uot; Taylor said. &uot;You have the money available to upgrade your present system. My advice is to spent that money.&uot;

Rick Harrell, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said he felt &uot;uncomfortable&uot; over the current direction the county was taking in regards to this equipment upgrade.

&uot;That’s why I’m happy to see you here tonight, Mr. Taylor,&uot; stressed Harrell. &uot;We need your advice. We want to make sure that the money we have to spend on this project will be spent in the best interest of the taxpayers.&uot;

Taking into consideration that Bertie is now sorting through bids just received last week on a Computer Aided Dispatch system and its accompanying software, Taylor told the Commissioners that the county was moving in the right direction on this project.

Bertie will also implement a Geographical Information System as well as a Records Management System. Those two will assist the tax department, but they are also vital to running a successful E-911 system.

The biggest question that remains is where to house all this equipment. Taylor was quizzed on that issue after hearing Chairman Harrell’s plea for, &uot;an honest answer. This board is not into the politics of this issue.&uot;

In a very candid response, Taylor said he had witnessed E-911 work well in three different settings – in a sheriff’s office, within the framework of a town/city police department or as an independently operated facility.

&uot;My personal opinion is that a emergency dispatch center – one for fire, police and rescue – works better as an independent facility,&uot; Taylor stated. &uot;Emergency dispatch is all so technical in this day and age. What you need to know as far as handling a crisis situation brings a whole new set of dynamics to the table.&uot;

Harrell offered a suggestion that the county move forward on this issue, stating, &uot;We want to be aggressive on this. Let’s move ahead and if we are going to do this, let’s do it right.&uot;

Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb said a committee was scheduled to go over the bids Thursday. He hopes to take a recommendation to the Commissioners at their next meeting, set for Feb. 7.