Police fear local 9-1-1 service phase out
That’s the question Rockdale Police Chief Thomas Harris is asking this week.
Harris fears by the end of the summer the Rockdale Police Station won’t be able to accept 911 emergency calls, with a corresponding three to five minute lag between the time a call is received in Cameron and an emergency crew gets dispatched from the southern half of Milam County.
“And that three to five minutes, even two minutes, could make the difference in some emergencies,” he said.
It’s a complex situation.
“The 9-1-1 system is supposed to be funded by a 50-cent fee on phone bills,” Harris said. “But the state is only letting 38 cents of each 50 go back to the regional and local entities to fund the 9-1-1 service,” he said.
“As I understand it, they’re taking that 12 cents and, even through they aren’t able to spend it, they put it in a fund and they get to count that money towards balancing the state budget,” Harris said.
“The bottom line is the entities administering 9-1-1 have to either come up with more money or cut back somehow,” he said. “And the most obvious way to cut back is to eliminate some of the Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP), like ours.”
Digital switch In Rockdale’s corner of the world, the agency charged with administering the 9-1-1 system is the Central Texas Council of Governments (CTCOG). Harris said the 9-1-1 system is already gearing up for the (more expensive) switch from analog to digital lines. While that’s not going to be totally in effect until 2012, he fears CTCOG could eliminate Rockdale’s 911 answering point as soon as August.
“Frankly, I think they’ve already made up their minds to do away with our PSAP at the police station and have 9-1-1 calls for the entire county answered at the sheriff’s department, which is already the PSAP for North Milam,” he said.
“I’m not saying they’re not going to do a fine job,” Harris said. “It’s a matter of time.”
“Let’s say Cameron gets a 9- 1-1 call about an emergency in Rockdale, Milano, Thorndale, Gause,” he said. “They’re going to take down the information. Then they’re going to have to contact us to have Rockdale dispatch emergency crews,” he added. “And they will have to give us all that information, we’ll have to take it down and then dispatch someone.”
“Right now we get the call and immediately dispatch the crews,” he said. “I just think that delay, which I’d estimate at 3-5 minutes is dangerous.”
The situation is due discussion at a CTCOG meeting Thursday and also by Milam County Commissioners and the Rockdale City Council.