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New Joint Emergency Communications Center Will Inter-connect Johnson County

NORTH LIBERTY—The Johnson County Joint Emergency Communications Center (JECC) is closer to becoming a reality.
The JECC, a collaboration between the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, the cities of Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty and the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency, will combine law enforcement, fire and rescue and Emergency Medical Services dispatch information in one emergency operations center for all of Johnson County.
The project is being funded by a special tax levy and the sale of bonds on the national market.
The bond sale was finalized on March 26, and proceeds from the sale were made available to the JECC as of April 2. On that date the Johnson County Board of Supervisors approved a budget amendment allowing the money to be appropriated and allocated, according to Tom Salm, Mayor of North Liberty and newly appointed Chair of the Policy Board of the JECC.
The target date for completion of the new building is June 30. According to Mike Sullivan, Executive Director of the JECC, the date is weather dependent. “They have asked for some weather days but we haven’t authorized them yet,” Sullivan said.
An important next step in the process, according to Sullivan, is to hire a system administrator/associate director to coordinate all of the technology that is being developed right now.
“This person’s primary role will be the coordination of the systems that are going into the center,” said Sullivan. “I hope to have the position filled by June 1.”
In order to cover communications in all of Johnson County, four towers will be built and four others will be co-located on existing towers. Towers are expected to be completed by this fall.
A $1.9 million grant from the federal Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) was awarded in November to fund the county-wide communications system.
Training of dispatchers will commence in September.
“I don’t want to reinvent the wheel to change things. The biggest change for them is two things. They are now going to be working together in the same room, and they will have all new technology,” said Sullivan.
The new technology will allow 911operators to reach cell phones through multiple screens on their monitors.
“The incoming call system we are going to use is called Viper 911, which will have mapping with it,” Sullivan explained. “We will have a combination of antennas and micro-wave dishes on all of these towers.”
“The main thing I want the public to know is that this system– once it’s completed and once it’s operational¬ the communication coverage in the county will be county-wide, to all fire departments, all law enforcement agencies, and the ambulance agencies. That will be coverage of 95 percent or greater, which is something we’ve never had in this county,” Sullivan said.
He added that the intended operational date is the end of this year or the first part of January, 2010.
Sullivan further explained that the new building would be co-shared with the staff of the Emergency Management Agency, presently located in the Johnson County jail.
“This design, this whole project is all about delivering better emergency communications to all of the public safety personnel that are out there. Fire departments won’t miss pages anymore. Deputies will be able to call into the communications center when they’ve stopped a car and get a response. This is for the benefit of residents as well.”