There has been another step taken to get more information that could lead to Lincoln County’s largest 9-1-1 dispatch center being switched over to a larger regional 9-1-1 dispatch center based in Salem, called Willamette Valley Communications Center (WVCC). WVCC is an arm of the city of Salem which dispatches for nearly 20 police and fire agencies and which already provides police and fire mobile computer systems for patrol cars and fire trucks in Toledo and Lincoln City.
Lincoln County’s “Lincom 9-1-1” system has operated as the largest of the three county dispatch systems; the other two being 9-1-1 centers serving Toledo and Lincoln City. Lincom 9-1-1 is based in Newport and dispatches for Newport Police and Fire, Lincoln County Sheriff and the fire districts of Seal Rock, Depoe Bay, Central Coast (Waldport) and Yachats.
The issue is all about money. Lincom is running out of it. Its base equipment is old, its communication radios, towers and other mountain top equipment are aging and the costs to retrofit are huge. At the least, Lincom’s supporting agencies listed above are contemplating whether it would be cheaper to contract out for 9-1-1 services as so many other communities have done in the Willamette Valley through WVCC.
Lincom’s governing board, made up of the user agencies, authorized a subcommittee to begin talks with WVCC to find out if such an idea is even feasible.
That subcommittee this week reported back and the answer was “Yes it’s feasible. But we need to drill down to the real costs. Not only upfront but for the long haul,” according to Lincom member and County Commmissioner Don Lindly. Lindly said preliminary discussions with WVCC produced many questions on the Lincom side as well as from WVCC. “Both need to do a lot more information sharing,” said Lindly That additional sharing is expected to be the main topic of discussion during next week’s Lincom Board meeting when the direction is expected to be, “Go back to WVCC and develop a clearer picture of what we’re dealing with. What’s a reasonable bottom line?”
Lincom’s budget, with its badly depleted reserve funds, is widely reported to be in need of additional financial contributions from its participating agencies, agencies who say they want to explore alternatives that don’t cost so much money. Consolidation of all 9-1-1 services, Lincom, Lincoln City and Toledo, has been explored but Lincoln City and Toledo have said they’re not interested in folding their systems into Lincom.
Lincom members want to know what the total cost package would be for 24/7, 9-1-1 services and how those costs are broken down. WVCC wants to know what Lincom equipment might still be useable or what will need upgrading. Lincom says it’s budget year starts next July 1st. WVCC said that they could probably arrange a switch-over by that date, but again, there is a lot of number crunching to get through before then.
Again, Lincom officials meet again next Wednesday to begin what maybe the first comprehensive effort to figure out whether Lincom 9-1-1 should stay in Lincoln County (and at what cost) or whether contracting for those services with WVCC would be in Lincoln County’s best interest. One academic question would be, if Lincom becomes WVCC, would Toledo and Lincoln City soon follow since WVCC already provides both cities with mobile computers in patrol cars and fire trucks and handles their incident management system. And if they do follow, how would that affect the individual costs for all agencies to join WVCC? Lincom’s fire district members are especially concerned about their costs, which would rise, based on very preliminary figures from WVCC.
We’ll see what the Lincom Board does next week.