Ashley County Quorum Court members voted last week to change 911 providers.
The county’s bill with AT&T, which included a 911 service contract, recently doubled from $5,500 to $10,600. That contract is up and the 911 committee recommended to justices that they switch to Solacom.
Brandy Dye, with the county’s 911 service, said one benefit of Solacom is that there is no monthly fee. New equipment would have to be purchased for the switch, she said, but then only $8,000 would be due annually. According to Dye, that is a much smaller number than the monthly AT&T bill.
She also explained that with new state polices going into effect, the county would need new equipment even if it remained with AT&T.
Justice Ricky Simms, chairman of the 911 committee, also spoke about the new policies, the restructuring of the 911 and Public-Safety Answering Point (PSAP) funds, and the pros and cons of going with the new service.
A new state law now requires emergency services use Next Generation 911 to cover all types of emergency contact. The county’s current contract is not compatible with that and an equipment upgrade would be necessary to comply. Additionally, if Ashley County chose to go with Solacom’s service, it could become a host for other counties.
Dye told the court that there has been talk that — because the 911 commission is restructuring in January — several counties could lose their PSAP funds, forcing them to combine with other counties. Some counties in north Arkansas are moving ahead and collaborating, she said, adding that counties working together and sharing equipment to save money could change the way 911 funds are distributed when it comes time to restructure.
Wheeler told justices that after sitting in on meetings and conversation he believes the system will move in the direction of consolidating and cutting funds.
“We can be on the front end of this or we can be on the rear end of this,” Wheeler said.
After discussing the switch to Solacom, the conversation moved to paying for the new equipment which will cost approximately $100,000.
“Do we want to pay for it right now, or do we want to add it into next year’s budget,” County Judge Jim Hudson asked.
Justice Ron Miller suggested that the court let the budget committee decide how to pay for it.
“I think we just pass it and then we let the 911 committee decide how they are going to pay for it, whether they are going to finance it or pay for it,” Miller said.