Alarm system on chopping block
A service offered by the Washington County Communications Center to monitor alarms in area buildings may soon be discontinued after the Washington County Communications Commission learned it would cost about $3,500 to replace the failing equipment for the program.
During the regular meeting Monday evening, member Merle Hagie said that he wanted to see the commission make a decision one way or another about whether or not to keep the program during its April 22 meeting. He said his preference is to not replace the panel in the communications center that receives the alarms and not offer the service. 911 Supervisor Cara Sorrells said that about 60 entities use the service. The service has been offered without charge to the public beginning in 1988.
“We are paying $450 a year to New York for the Parkside alarm because I didn’t know we could do it for free,” Commission member Ryan Miller said.
Sorrells said that many users are area schools. She also said the 30 users who had responded to a letter she sent in November had expressed willingness to share the cost of new equipment.
Commission member Stan Stoops said that he believed if the service continues to be offered, a fee should be collected. During discussion, many members remarked that there are private businesses that offer the service of answering alarms. The closest is in the Quad Cities.
The letter sent to users said that if the panel is removed, the alarms would be routed through a third-party central station and there would be additional costs. The central station would then contact the communications center.
Sorrells said that the majority of alarms are errors and about 30 percent require an officer to respond. She also said that an alarm going off might delay a dispatcher who is working on an emergency call.
“I’m going back and forth on whether to keep it,” she said.
Users wishing to comment on the program are invited to attend the next Communications Commission meeting at 7 p.m. April 22 in the former Washington Public Library.