A communications consultant said consolidating emergency dispatching efforts in the Tri-Cities would improve service, eliminate current potential failures and risks, and probably save thousands of dollars.
Ernest Pages of E-Gov Consulting from Fairview, Texas, gave separate reports with the same message Wednesday to Benton and Franklin county commissioners.
"We think you can do a lot more with what you already have," Pages said.
Currently, Franklin County dispatch, SECOMM also known as Southeast Communications Center, and BIPIN, which is the Bicounty Police Information Network, provide communications and records management for public safety services in the two counties and their cities.
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Pages said the various public entities that participate in the network provide about $6.6 million a year to keep the system going.
E-Gov was hired in January to analyze the emergency communications systems in Benton and Franklin counties, to see if a regional consolidation of the 911 network would be advisable.
A $75,000 federal grant is paying the consulting cost, said Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield.
Pages said the analysis discovered that while the three systems use the same software provider, known as Intergraph, greater efficiencies are possible.
Pages said there is no coherent overall operability, no overall governance and managing overall costs is difficult.
Each independently managed communication system gathers essential information, but it is difficult to share it regionally, Pages said.
"All the technologies are in place, but the marshaling of them together is what needs to happen," Pages said.
More than just consolidating dispatching systems, Pages said the cities and counties should look at combining all their efforts to look ahead at how to obtain "maximum functionality."
It will give the police agencies more resources in dealing with regional crime issues, such as gang and drug activity, he said.
Pages also noted that neither county has an adequate backup dispatching capability, which is a potential problem.
With 13 public safety agencies using the systems as now set up, Pages said it is possible to consolidate into a single management system that would improve service level and response times. It also would address the need for a dispatching backup system.
"Existing strategic management decisions are tied to systems and jurisdictional boundaries rather than how to best deliver services," Pages told Franklin County commissioners.
"(You) now have a single system operated by three entities," Pages said.
But it would be good to make it work better without needing to spend more money, he added.
Pages noted that annual costs for the three systems show $602,000 from BIPIN participants, $1.8 million from Franklin County for its dispatching system, and $4.2 million from SECOMM.
He said there is no need to increase the cost in "re-marshaling" the systems into a combined effort.
And, by going from three to one contract with Intergraph, there would be an automatic reduction on the annual maintenance costs from Intergraph, which are billed per account.
"I'm anxious to see the next chapter," said Crutchfield, who attended the presentation to the Franklin County commissioners.
Pages said his company would be able to provide better information about the cost and more specific recommendations within a few months.