Consulting firm plots road map for emergency communications regionalization in Benton, Franklin counties

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldAugust 15, 2013 

A consulting firm is at work developing a road map for the regionalization of emergency communications in Benton and Franklin counties.

The firm -- Sciens Consulting, formerly eGov -- is expected to present its findings to local officials during a bicounty meeting in early October.

The road map will include a cost-benefit analysis and a proposed organizational structure.

"They'll say, 'This is how we think you should organize, what we think it'll cost, what we think the benefits will be.' We'll be looking to them to make recommendations about the equipment we have now and what additional might be necessary," said Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck, part of the steering committee of local officials who have been working for months on regionalization. A final decision about regionalizing hasn't been made yet -- that will come after the presentation lays out more information.

Today, the two counties have separate 911 dispatch centers and law enforcement use different radio networks -- 800 megahertz in Benton County and VHF in Franklin County.

That has led to communication issues, officials have said.

The idea of forming a regional system has been discussed for years.

In the spring, Benton and Franklin county commissioners and the city councils in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick approved an agreement that called for using a consultant to help design a regionalization plan.

Peck said the selection of Sciens Consulting made sense because the firm has expertise and is familiar with the community and its emergency communications systems after conducting a previous analysis of regionalization.

That study, from about two years ago, suggested that combining the two dispatch centers and the Bicounty Police Information Network, or BIPIN, could be a money-saver and lead to improved service. The consulting firm's current work will be covered by a state grant.

Sciens is based in Texas.

Benton County Commissioner Shon Small said he looks forward to the bicounty meeting.

"I'm ecstatic for the future, just to see the information ... so we can gain more knowledge and (determine) the direction to go down," he said. "I appreciate everybody's effort and hard work."

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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