Correction: Yachats Fire District is also joining WVCC by a recent vote of their board. It’s Siletz Fire that’s not quite on board yet or may delay joining in.
Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda and Fire Chief Phil Paige told the Newport City Council Monday night that the transition is going smoothly as Lincoln County’s 9-1-1 dispatching service, LINCOM, will end July 1st, and the Salem dispatch center takes over.
The Salem center, called Willamette Valley Communications Center (WVCC), will hire any LINCOM employee who can move to the valley and join their team which already serves 17 emergency agencies in the North Willamette Valley. Chief Miranda outlined the financials to the council reporting that Newport’s cost for 9-1-1 coverage will rise a little bit in 2012-13, but will be far less than what was being proposed by LINCOM which needs a lot of money to upgrade their dispatching system. “In the long run,” Miranda said, “Newport will save substantially over the years while enjoying superior dispatching performance, due mainly to higher quality and ever upgrading dispatching equipment, both at the WVCC 9-1-1 center and in the emergency services vehicles they dispatch. Miranda also said that having a bigger dispatching staff means greater flexibility that can track the ebb and flow of emergency calls every day and night of the year.
It remains unclear whether Lincoln City and Toledo will eventually make the move themselves to WVCC. However, both have expressed an interest in looking into it. Toledo and Lincoln City pay hundreds of thousands of dollar a year to have their own, local 9-1-1 centers. However, they, like all other 9-1-1 centers, operate on state pass-through money that is forecasted to be withdrawn from local communities as the state directs those funds to create nine new regional 9-1-1 centers to serve the whole state.
Thus far, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Newport Police and all fire protection districts have signed up to join WVCC, except for North Lincoln Fire Rescue, Lincoln City Police, Toledo Police and Fire and Siletz. Siletz Fire Chief Dave Lapof says they have a board meeting next week that may indicate whether it’ll be WVCC or perhaps joining the Toledo dispatch center. Lincoln City has always maintained an interest in a regional system as long as there is a back up system connecting the city to a regional dispatch center. A powerful Pacific storm slammed ashore some years back that cut Lincoln City off from the rest of the world and it’s made the town’s commitment to its own 9-1-1 center tough to break. However, many argue that when the inevitable “big one” hits, the earthquake will be powerful enough to knock out power, wire and fiber optic linkages between the coast and the valley so few if any communities here or there will have regular 9-1-1 service. Maintaining the capacity to call for help will depend on how good of an emergency services back up system is ready to move into place to get the job done, with considerable cooperation with local ham radio operators.
Again, the switch over from LINCOM to WVCC is expected to occur July 1st.