City, county leaders mull 911 operations transfer

Published 9:43 am Tuesday, February 20, 2007

By Staff
By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
During a joint session Monday, Beaufort County commissioners and Washington City Council chewed the fat over what needs to be done now that the city is “getting out of the business” of answering 911 calls.
The two bodies are tasked with figuring out how to make that work and were told they had one major problem — inconsistency.
The addressing problem comes because some addresses were assigned using a “distance system,” in which locations are given numbers based on how far they are from a chosen central point, Davis said. Other houses and building were assigned addresses based on the old block system.
He said an upgraded geographic information system could make the 911-operations transition easier. A GIS is a computer system that captures, stores, analyzes and manages data related to land. It could be used to pinpoint the locations of callers with emergencies, he said.
The county already uses GIS, but it’s primarily for use by the tax office for “tax mapping” billing and determining property values, Davis said.
County Commissioner Hood Richardson, a surveyor, balked at the GIS idea. He called it “highly data driven” and “useless.”
Mayor Judy Meier Jennette bristled at that suggestion. She said she wanted to learned about GIS because it was part of the 911-operations equation.
The council had hoped to give up 911 operations by July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year. After much discussion, the leaders concluded that time frame was not realistic because the address issues must be tackled at both the city and county levels and can’t be handled quickly.
Instead, they will look at “how to clean up the (current) data sets” and the county will come back to the city with a time line for taking over 911 operations, according to a motion approved by both sets of leaders.
Jennette said the city is “certainly willing to work with” the county to make the transition a smooth one. The city will also give the $60,000 it has for 911-call equipment to the county, she said.