NC county awarded $2.2M state grant for new emergency call center

The money will help fund renovation, hardware, equipment and associated technology costs for the call center


By John Henderson
The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — Cumberland County officials were elated to learn that the state has awarded a $2.2 million grant towards a new 911 Center.

The North Carolina 911 Board has awarded the funds for the new call center, which is estimated to cost $15 million, and is planned to be located in the future Emergency Services Building at 500 Executive Place. The money will help fund renovation, hardware, equipment and associated technology costs for the call center, which will include space for 15 workstations and five live training workstations.

In addition to the 911 Call Center, the building will also house the County's Emergency Services Department, Fire Marshal's office, Emergency Management and the Emergency Operations Center.

Assistant County Manager Tracy Jackson said the 911 Board doled out $10 million in grants this year, and Cumberland fared well with the second-highest award.

He said the tentative time for the new center to open is April of 2021.

In November 2018, the county purchased the 17,000-square-foot building on 2.72 acres for the new call center on Executive Place. Originally an insurance service center for State Farm, the building was renovated by the Department of Defense in 2009 into a secure office and data center and includes a black K4 rated security fence around the perimeter.

For the county, the next steps for the project include:

  • Entering into a contract with an architect for design and engineering services.
  • Entering into a contract with a construction manager for the project
  • Going out to bid for the actual renovations to the building.
  • Planning for the transition to the new 911 Center sometime in the spring of 2021

Cumberland County Emergency Services Director Gene Booth and Telecommunications Manager Adam Johnson appeared before the N.C. 911 Board Grant Committee in July to present the County's grant application.

"We are grateful to the 911 Board for recognizing the need for this funding and look forward to the next steps in moving the renovation project along," Booth said in a prepared statement.

The current 911 Call Center has been housed in the Law Enforcement Center on Dick Street, next to the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse, since 1974 when the LEC was built. Since that time, Cumberland County's population has grown by about 95,000 people and the volume of emergency calls has increased.

Cumberland County's grant application cited the need for more space and reduced risk from vulnerabilities such as flooding and hazardous materials traveling along nearby railroad tracks. The current center on Dick Street has 858 square feet of space and the new center will have 2,171 square feet.

In April and May of this year, county commissioners and Fayetteville City Council members discussed possibly operating a joint center in which the building only would be shared initially but the services of both government bodies would be consolidated over time. But the talks fell apart in May.

Mayor Mitch Colvin said Tuesday that if the city and county would have moved ahead with a consolidated project, it was projected that they could have received $4 million to $6 million in grant money from the 911 Board. He said the city didn't apply for 911 Board funds when the talks with the county fell apart.

Colvin said it is a shame that the consolidation talks did not pan out. "At the end of the day we wished it worked out. We tried," he said. "(County officials) just had such a rigid position."

On Aug 7, Cumberland County 911 system migrated to the state's Emergency Services IP Network and "Hosted Call Handling Solution," known as ESInet. There are now 13 PSAP sites live on ESInet in the state.

ESInet is a managed IP network that is used for emergency services communications and which can be shared by all public safety answering points. It provides the infrastructure needed for Next Generation (NG 911) services.

"As communication technology advances, so will the way we handle receiving 911 calls," Booth said in the prepared statement.

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©2019 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

 

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