Grand Forks leaders seek 911 center expansion in spring
Grand Forks city leaders are aiming to finally start the long-awaited expansion of the area's 911-dispatch center this spring. City Council member Curt Kreun, who chairs the safety committee, asked the city finance department Tuesday to look into...
Grand Forks city leaders are aiming to finally start the long-awaited expansion of the area's 911-dispatch center this spring.
City Council member Curt Kreun, who chairs the safety committee, asked the city finance department Tuesday to look into a funding mechanism.
Dispatchers have worked under extremely overcrowded conditions for years, and that has an impact on the efficiency of emergency response, Fire Chief Pete O'Neill said. They're practically sitting on top of one another, he said.
The dispatch center has needed an expansion since at least 1994, when officials there proposed one expansion. The flood got in the way, but even several years after that, the center still had a hard time expanding. In 2007, voters rejected a proposed county property tax increase to raise $1.7 million to move the center to the old county jail across the street.
Cost is not so much of a challenge this time around despite the now $2 million cost of the project. The city has $1.2 million available and needs only another $800,000, according to Finance Director Saroj Jerath.
Unlike other proposed expansions, the 911 center would be housed in an addition to the police building where it's already.
Normally, the city would sell a bond to raise the remaining $800,000, according to Kreun, but the state phone tax dedicated to 911 center has to be authorized by voters again in 2014. With the possibility, no matter how slight, that voters would vote the tax down, the city can't base the bond payments on revenue from the phone tax.
Kreun said it's possible the finance department would suggest borrowing the money from another fund in the city and repaying it after 2014.
The phone tax costs consumers $1 per phone line or cell phone.
The 911 dispatch center serves all of Grand Forks County, including the city and UND.
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