Polk County approves funding for 911 back-up center

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Back-up center scheduled to go live July 1

GREEN CREEK – Beginning July 1, a 911 call in Polk County should never go unanswered as plans are for a back-up center to be installed in Green Creek.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners recently approved a budget amendment for $180,000 to fund a 911 back-up center at the Green Creek Fire Department.

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The money comes from 911 funding that the county receives every year from the state.

The back-up center was required by the state to be installed this year in every county in an attempt to have no 911 calls go unanswered.

Commissioners met April 3 and approved the budget amendment as well as heard from county 911 Communications Director James McGuinn.

County manager Marche Pittman said the county’s 911 funding can only be used for purposes such as this. Pittman said the county gets penalized every year in terms of how much funding it receives from the state if the county keeps a 911 fund balance.

“It’s not local taxpayer money,” Pittman told commissioners. “It’s surcharge money.”

North Carolina passed a law several years ago requiring phone companies to place a surcharge on customers’ bills in order for the state to send that money to counties for dispatch services.

Estimates for the back-up 911 center came in at $174,0173 so the county approved a budget amendment for $180,000.

The 911 back-up center will include fiber, phone lines, radio/paging, laptops, printer, desk, chairs, a data center and customer premise equipment (CPE). The largest line items for the center are the CPE, estimated at more than $96,000 and the data center, estimated at more than $54,000, according to the estimates.

McGuinn said this week the county has already begun installing the 911 center and actually began last year making space at the Green Creek Fire Department.

The Green Creek Fire Department agreed to donate space in the main department for as long as the county needs it for the back-up center.

McGuinn said installation of the back-up center is scheduled to be complete sometime in June and he hopes for it to go live on July 1 this year.

Former N.C. Governor Pat McCrory signed Senate Bill 797 in 2014 requiring all public safety answering points (PSAPs) to have a backup plan.

“The intent of this bill was to insure the citizens of North Carolina have access to 911 when they need it,” McGuinn said. “Prior to this bill, only 26 of the 127 PSAPs in North Carolina had a backup plan.

In order to continue to receive 911 funds from North Carolina, the bill required that all PSAPs have a backup PSAP with mirror image capabilities of the primary PSAP. The bill also recommended there be a minimum of a one-mile separation between the two 911 centers. The Green Creek Fire Department is approximately 11 miles from the main 911 center in downtown Columbus.

Both the Columbus 911 center and the back-up station in Green Creek are equipped with generators in case of a power outage.

McGuinn said the Columbus 911 center is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week and plans are for the Green Creek back-up station to be manned only when the main station is down.