San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

August 19th, 2011
Hays allocates money to get unified dispatch center started


The Hays County Commissioners Court on Wednesday agreed to take $100,000 from the county’s savings account for use in funding pre-design work for a countywide, unified dispatch center.

Almost three months ago, a committee representing local police, fire, and emergency service providers presented a report to commissioners advising 9-1-1 dispatch operations in the county consolidated into a single Public Safety Answering Point. The consultant estimated a 10,000 square foot building to house the call center would cost about $3.9 million.

Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley, a Wimberley Republican, has said it is too early to know when the proposed facility might be built, or precisely how the cost of the building would be shared among Hays County, Texas State, San Marcos, Buda, and Kyle. Conley said the proposed square footage and cost provided by consultant Mission Critical Partners are “purely preliminary” estimates.

The proposed facility would consolidate call centers currently operated by the city of San Marcos, Texas State University, the city of Kyle, and the Hays County Sheriff’s Office. County officials have said the proposed facility would provide more coordination and collaboration among 9-1-1 call-takers, dispatchers and responders, leading to faster, more reliable emergency response service.

During a budget workshop on Wednesday, Conley broached the idea of allocating the $100,000 for the development of the PSAP. Conley said at least some of the money could be used to gather data that would be eventually given to an architectural firm, who would design the PSAP facility. Conley said he anticipates San Marcos and Kyle would contribute money towards the initial effort. Conley said the estimated cost of the initial, pre-design work is $170,000.

Conley said it would be pointless to ask Texas State University for a monetary contribution, in light of the state legislature’s funding cuts to the institution. Conley said he hopes Texas State University could make in-kind contributions to the effort, such as a land donation.

Hays County Judge Bert Cobb, a San Marcos Republican, said in June that doubted the $3,893,400 estimated cost and said the call center could be built at a lower cost.

In June, Hays County Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, a San Marcos Democrat, said the proposed call center facility ought to be easily expandable to handle future growth years after its construction.

Responding to Ingalsbe’s comment, Erica Carpenter, the sheriff’s office call center manager, said the experiences of those involved with a similar consolidation effort in Austin indicate “no matter what you put down on paper, triple it.”

Currently, only the sheriff’s office and the San Marcos Police Department dispatch fire and emergency medical service calls. Calls to other centers, such as to the Kyle Police Department and to Texas State University’s Police Department must be transferred to one of the dispatch centers, which can result in delays, dropped calls and confusion about which service is responding.

Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution in June in support of the proposed call center. Carpenter told the commissioners court that officials who manage separate 9-1-1 call-taking and dispatch centers throughout the county are in favor of a single call center, as are emergency responders.

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