FORT WAYNE – Fort Wayne and Allen Countys new $17 million emergency dispatch system will also need a new $1 million phone system – all while a deadline looms to find a new location for the department.
The Consolidated Communications Partnership, the city-county board overseeing the department, agreed Tuesday to seek additional money to help pay for the cost of a phone system. The group voted to seek $1.5 million from the Allen County general fund to help cover its budget.
The money will be sought as part of Sheriff Ken Fries budget. Today is the deadline for county departments to seek more money than was allocated by the Allen County Council. The council provided $901,829 to the communications partnership from the general fund, but the group agreed to ask for $600,000 more.
Tim Lee, 911 director, said the current phone system is at the end of its life cycle and will not have maintenance easily available starting in 2014.
His 2013 budget includes $1 million for the new phones, although he said he is working to reduce that cost.
The board in May approved an agreement with Motorola to replace and install the public safety communications system for about $17 million. That expense was to upgrade the radio system, but Lee said the phones also need to be replaced.
The department handles all city and county 911 emergency calls and dispatches police and fire units throughout the county, excluding New Haven.
Fort Wayne Controller Pat Roller expressed concerns over who would be responsible for paying for the extra costs. The city and county are working on a new agreement for how to finance the joint department, which would help set the percentage of costs each government would be responsible for paying.
Roller said the city would pay 80 percent of some costs, but only 50 percent of others under a draft agreement. It was unknown which category would include the phone system. She also questioned who would be paying the costs for a new location for the joint department.
Currently, the department is in the basement of the Rousseau Centre, formerly known as the City-County Building.
John Feighner, attorney for the board, said the county is in very serious negotiations with two potential sites to rent up to 10,000 square feet for the department. He said its unlikely the department would remain in its current location, which would require numerous renovations.
Its unlikely we will be in the basement of the City-County Building if we have a better deal, he said. We think we do.
Roller questioned whether the city would be responsible for paying some of the rent at the new facility, noting the commissioners were originally supposed to house it in its building at no cost.
The 2013 budget included $100,000 for rent, but Lee said that was simply a placeholder. Fries said he would never support paying that much to lease space.
Feighner said he hopes a final decision on the location of the department will be made in the next two weeks.