MARYVILLE, Mo. – The Maryville Northwest Regional Communications Center is scheduled to begin providing emergency dispatch services to Worth County beginning in June.
The Worth County Emergency Services Group will pay $4,500 a month for dispatch services, according to an agreement approved by the Nodaway County Consolidated 911 Board of Directors on Tuesday.
Beginning June 1, all emergency calls for the Sheriff’s Office, ambulance services and Worth County’s two fire protection districts will go through the NRCC in Maryville.
Maryville City Council still needs to approve the deal at its Monday meeting for it to become official.
Over the term of the contract, which is due to expire at the end of 2024, the NRCC will receive $139,500.
Currently, Worth County contracts with the Gentry County 911 Dispatch Center for $4,600 per month, Maryville Police Chief Ron Christian said.
But late last summer, Christian said officials from Worth County emergency service providers reached out to tour the new R. Keith Wood Public Safety Center and determine if it might be a better option. for their county in the future.
With its new equipment and state-of-the-art operation, Worth County officials decided to make the switch.
“The fact that it was even asked about it felt like a compliment to the service (NRCC dispatchers) provide to our communities,” dispatch supervisor Jessica Rickabaugh said. “And so I think we’re very proud of our staff, that they’re doing a good job and our neighbors hear that.”
Another selling point was access to medical dispatch protocols used by Maryville dispatchers that are not in place in Gentry County.
One of the additions Rickabaugh’s team implemented at the NRCC is software that guides dispatchers through medical call decision trees to give appropriate instructions to callers that could save lives while an ambulance is on its way.
“And as rural as they are and as long as their volunteer ambulance service is needed to get to them, the availability of those instructions before arrival is also an important factor, as I think it would be in any rural community,” she said. “Being able to give CPR instructions, choking protocol, bleeding control – that’s a big deal.”
The increased workload for NRCC dispatchers is expected to be minimal, Rickabaugh said. With a population of 1,973 as counted in the 2020 U.S. Census, Worth County is the smallest county in the state by population and geographic area, and receives only about 200 to 400 calls to health services. emergency per year. Last year, the NRCC handled 23,795 calls in Nodaway County.
In order to integrate calls into the existing system, NRCC officials struck a deal with the company that administers call routing services, INdigital, to add Worth County for $500 per month. Initially, the company’s minimum fee was $1,500 per month, but after Rickabaugh spoke with company representatives about the extremely low call volume, they agreed to lower the fee. Without it, Christian said, the agreement with Worth County would not have been possible.
Additional INdigital costs will be the biggest additional expense, though Christian said there will be smaller one-time expenses as they integrate Worth County data into the system.
Rickabaugh said the biggest challenge will be learning local landmarks and shorthand in a new community.
“How do pagination work, what are they called? What are their Pumpkin Centers and Bolckows and Bedisons and ‘Toad Hollar’ and ‘Carr Bridge’ – you learn their lingo in terms of how we help them,” she said. “…That’s going to be the biggest issue for us, it’s just learning how their different rural stakeholders work – how do their citizens ask for help?”
When local officials drew up plans for the new public safety facility that went into service in Maryville in 2020, they built the dispatch center larger than necessary to allow for expansion down the road by drawing in surrounding counties like Worth. Even the name of the new consolidated dispatch operation – the Northwest Regional Communications Center – spoke to the long-term goal of making Maryville a hub for emergency communications services throughout the region.
Adding Worth County won’t require any expansion or additional staff, Christian said, but it’s a first step toward that larger goal.
“I think this is an exciting opportunity for the communications division and we look forward to hopefully playing a bigger role in northwest Missouri as it relates to communications,” he said. declared.
When City of Maryville and County of Nodaway officials agreed to a consolidated dispatch operation in late 2019, one of the main sticking points during the negotiation sessions had been a funding mechanism for the new center. The two parties agreed to launch the operation and, over the next three years, to study what would be most effective. In the meantime, the centre’s only dedicated source of funding is a tax on landlines which has seen its revenues fall sharply in recent years as landline usage declines. That left the city and county to make up the shortfall — about $450,000 — by funding the center from their own general revenue sources through a 50-50 split.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Bill Florea, director of operations for the Nodaway County Ambulance District, told the 911 Joint Advisory Board that the subcommittee set up in December to study the funding mechanism recommended attempt to fully fund the NRCC. The subcommittee consisted of Florea, Southern District Commissioner Scott Walk and City Council member Dannen Merrill.
Two main funding options were considered: asking taxpayers to approve a $1 charge on electronic devices like cell phones to help offset lost landline revenue, or asking taxpayers to approve a dedicated sale to fund the NRCC which would replace all telephone supplements.
During negotiations in 2019, county officials had strongly favored the sales tax option in order to fully fund the new operation. But city officials had generally been wary of that option because they feared a sales tax would be less likely to pass than a cellphone tax. The proposed $1 for the cell phone surcharge is the maximum allowed by state law, but a study commissioned by the two parties in 2018 showed that it would come nowhere near funding NRCC expenses, which are around the $750,000.
Funding a portion of dispatch services from general revenue, however, is normal for the city, which has never had a dedicated source of funding to fully offset the cost of its dispatch operations.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Florea estimated that a 3/8 cent sales tax would bring north $900,000 a year, fully funding the NRCC and allowing for growth, unforeseen expenses and possibly projects as well. smaller fixed assets. Florea also said the sales tax would be more efficient in the long run because the electronics tax, even if its cap was raised significantly from $1, would still be flat-rate and therefore unable to keep up with future spending increases. A sales tax would be more likely to do this because it is tied to the price of goods.
Under state law, funding the dispatch center through a sales tax would require the creation of a new public board that would oversee the tax revenue and operations of the NRCC, and eliminate the existing tax on fixed telephones. The city-county agreement requires the joint advisory council to make a recommendation on the future funding mechanism by the end of 2022. Council members discussed on Tuesday when a sales tax might have the best chances of success – August, November or next April – but agreed to gather more comments and information on the proposal before the next quarterly meeting.