Lafayette to consider alternative 9-1-1 center

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:58

    LAFAYETTE - With the contract price doubling for dispatch for 9-1-1 calls with their arrangement with Newton, Lafayette is considering alternative centers to service the township. The present contract cost at $20,000 would double to $40,000 in the first year of a three-year contract increasing to $49,000 in the last year of the agreement. At the last township council meeting, Mayor John D’Angeli said that they are contacting other towns in the county that provide the dispatch service to check if one would accept a contract. The council has contacted Sparta and Andover Township, selected because of their geographical location, since that it is a factor in choosing a new affiliation, and is now waiting for a response as the contract with Newton expires Dec. 31 of this year. Hardyston has also been contacted. “There are logistical issues” involving signal reception said D’Angeli. Although Vernon and Byram both provide the service, the landscape of the county presents an obstacle and, therefore, the better alternative would be to negotiate with Newton. D’Angeli noted that every town that works with Newton has been doubled. Fire Chief Joe Farishon, when contacted following the meeting, explained that 9-1-1 calls usually are relayed through the State Police in Totowa to the closest dispatch center to the call. He said that the reason for the price increase could be due to the growth in the town and because equipment has been updated to send out tones that would differentiate between fire and emergency medical service calls. Prior to the change, one set of tones would call out both groups of volunteers, even if it was a medical call involving only EMS workers. He suggested that this additional cost might be a reason for the increase. Mayor D’Angeli, was also contacted after the meeting, and he reiterated the probable cause. He said that Newton had recently completed improvements to the municipal building, police department, and 9-1-1 dispatch center. Municipal officials were invited to tour the improvements. “I can’t understand doubling the price,” said D’Angeli, “but we are looking elsewhere. He added that residents should not be concerned that there will be no change in the service, and all calls will be answered. “One way or another, we will still have 9-1-1,” he said. The solution to the question of dispatch coverage might be a county-wide 9-1-1 answering point. In September of this year, the county applied for grant funds in the amount of $60,000 to conduct a study requested by 19 of the county’s 24 municipalities to determine the feasibility of a consolidated answering point. The project, as described in the application, notes that there are now six municipal Public Safety Answering Points serving 24 municipalities with 152,000 residents whose numbers increase at various seasons due to the “recreational offerings that abound throughout the county.” It further states that “except in times of local severe emergencies, no more than two telecommunicators are on duty at any time.” After midnight, all centers have only one telecommunicator on duty. County Administrator John Eskilson said that some eight months ago, Hopatcong approached the county regarding a centralized system. Of the 24 municipalities in Sussex County, Hardyston, Newton, Sparta, and Vernon declined an interest, and Montague still has not responded. Eskilson said that he expects to hear the state’s decision on the grant by the end of this year, and that the study itself will take an estimated 4-6 months. “It will be dependent upon the level of cooperation in providing data at the municipal level.” He continued, “There is a whole lot of research because this is more than a financial analysis.” According to Eskilson, there are many factors involved in the decision including call volumes, involvement of town or state police, FCC licensing of frequencies, signal coverage, towers and antennas, and other several other issues. “We are talking about the public safety, and you’ve got to know that when you flip the switch everything is working. There is no margin for error.”