Cortland County Facing $1 Million Dollar Expense to Replace 9-1-1 Center Computer Software
Friday, March 14, 2014
Cortland County Facing $1 Million Dollar Expense to Replace 9-1-1 Center Computer Software
Cortland County lawmakers are considering applying for a $600 thousand dollar Homeland Security Grant as part of a plan to replace the county's 9-1-1 computer dispatching software.
County leaders are facing the need to spend up to a million dollars to replace the technology that runs the county 9-11 center and is utilized by all police and fire agencies in the County.
The computer aided dispatch or CAD system as it is referred to is a package of software used by 9-1-1 dispatchers to send first responders to emergencies. The system consists of several modules that provide services at multiple levels inside and outside the 9-1-1 center. The system manages caller input, response dispatching, call status, event notes, location of police cars, availability and contact with fire and rescue services.
The system can also provide dispatchers and first responders with several additional layers of information including maps and records. It also networks with the State DMV computer system to provide police with driving records and vehicle information.
Nine years ago the County Legislature spent over a half million dollars to update the system. 
According to Cortland County Emergency Communications Director Scott Roman the current system which was purchased from New World Systems in 2005, has never performed the way it was supposed to. After years of struggling with the company in an attempt to fix problems with the software, Roman feels the time has come to abandon the system and move on.
The county is spending $80 thousand dollars a year on maintenance and support with New World, last year the county withheld that payment in an effort to get the company to address the problems, to date that hasn't worked either. Now the County is facing having no support for a program that isn't working properly 
Roman and Deputy County Information Technology Director Jack Hess have recommended that the county purchase new dispatch software from Utah based Spillman Technologies. Roman says the company has been proven to be reliable and many surrounding counties have had success with their products.  
Roman says new software would be able to do more with existing information and could improve emergency response, particularly in the fire service.
In attempt to strengthen the $600 thousand dollar grant application and offset the $1 million dollar price tag, Hess has recommend Cortland County join a new multi county 9-1-1 network. Cortland County would partner with Tompkins, Cayuga, Jefferson, and Lewis Counties to create an integrated regional 9-1-1 system that would better serve all five counties. 
Roman says this will provide for improved communication between the partner county's 9-1-1 centers and will allow the each county to handle overflow calls in the event of heavy call volumes or large emergencies.
Homer Fire Chief Mahlon Irish Jr. says having more streamlined communications between the dispatchers would help in his fire district which includes the Town of Summerhill in Cayuga County. Right now 1st responders must rely on more low tech methods when they respond to calls outside the county.
Lawmakers briefly discussed the cost of the update both with and without the grant. Once the county moves to drop the current service provider there is no support for the current software in the event it totally fails.  Lawmakers talked about borrowing the funds to purchase the new system, but if the grant is awarded it cannot be used to pay off the debt, the only way it can be used to offset the expense is if the county leases the software, which may increase the base cost.
Lawmakers are expected to take up the cost issue next week at the budget and finance committee, they could vote on the grant application at the end of the month.
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