Inside the heart of the Emergency Operations Center, Harvey County dispatch personnel have been being dealing with a lot of change over the past couple of weeks. The county's new Next Generation 911 (NG911) system went live as of Oct. 26, and commissioners saw first hand how that has transformed the way in which 911 calls are processed during a tour of the center on Monday.

On the first day the new system went live, Communications Director Don Gruver said the advantages of the new system were made clear as calls started coming in about a grass fire in Sedgwick. With the new system, dispatch was able to quickly pinpoint the location of the fire and call in support from surrounding departments in Halstead, Newton, etc. — even some departments that were not paged by Harvey County 911 turned up to assist in the fire suppression efforts.

At the center of NG911, Gruver informed commissioners that the mapping resources are one of the biggest benefits of the new system. With 76 percent participation from Kansas counties in NG911, and each providing geographic data, the map-based system makes the process of locating callers much quicker. With the majority of calls now coming from cell phones, he added that residents turning on GPS services will aid in that process all the more.

"You can have that set for 911 only," Gruver said. "We encourage people to do that."

In addition to the mapping benefits of the new system, the fact of NG911 being a state initiative brings a host of positives for Harvey County 911 — from the state being in charge of equipment maintenance to the near uniformity of the system allowing the Emergency Operations Center to log into its own system at any other NG911 center across the state.

Text to 911 will also be going live in Harvey County, on Nov. 1 officially, with Gruver demonstrating that facet of the new system to commissioners and noting that while it does get information to dispatch, a call is still the best way to help pinpoint your location — part of the impetus being the statewide motto to "call when you can and text when you can't."

Calling, Gruver noted, is also a more streamlined way of getting information across to dispatchers, as he noted information sent via text cannot be copied and pasted into the computer-aided dispatch system.

"It' s a very tightly protected, closed network," Gruver said.

What the new system will also provide is an easier way for department administrators to plug in and help take calls in busy times — which Gruver noted the department has had its share of. So, while the upgrade to NG911 was not required, it is for reasons like that Harvey County 911 pursued the shift in technology.

"If you don't keep up with it, things start breaking down here," Gruver said, "and we can't have that."

In other business, the county commission:

Was notified that the county received a quit claim deed from North Newton for the section of NW 36th Street in which maintenance authority has been called into question, which County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber noted will be filed this week.
Received a request from REAP for RSVPs to its reception for local elected officials coming up on Nov. 20, with commissioners Chip Westfall and Randy Hague indicating their planned attendance.
Heard an update on meetings between county administration and the fair board regarding the latter's organizational restructuring and the agreements that will need to be rewritten regarding use of the fair building and fair property. County counselor Greg Nye will be drafting the new agreements, which Swarztendruber noted he hopes to be finalized by the end of the year.
Learned of state-level changes that may delay the issuance of building permits for areas in the floodplain, according to Planning and Zoning Director Gina Bell.
Received a report from Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay on the department's participation in Drug Take Back Day Saturday, a national initiative through the Drug Enforcement Agency, which resulted in 440 pounds of old, unused medications being turned in to the sheriff's office.
Was informed of the success of the Haunted Forest at Harvey County West Park by Parks Director Kass Miller, who noted 300 people attended, helping raise $1,000 for the department. Feedback from participants also led Miller to consider holding the event on multiple days next year.
Heard from Emergency Management Director Gary Denny about an upcoming tabletop exercise stemming from the active shooter focus group, which will be held Wednesday among those in the field of government. Additionally, Denny noted the emergency management trailer project is wrapping up and those trailers will be going out to the six participating counties this week.
Was notified that negotiations with the U.S. Marshals are ongoing, with the sheriff's office receiving an offer of $70 per inmate and $28.50 for jail guard transportation from the Marshals. Assistant County Administrator Dan Bronson noted while the county is okay with the transportation fees, it will be seeking more for housing federal inmates.
Reviewed an agreement with Pictometry International (EagleView Technologies) for aerial photography services to update the mapping used in the county's geographic information system. The agreement did reflect a change from the company's initial presentation, eliminating four sectors along the I-135 corridor marked for higher resolution images — leading to a reduced cost of $73,689.50. Commissioners questioned if more of the higher resolution areas running south along I-135 could be re-appropriated to cover the airport instead, with administration noting they would check with the company about pricing, also pointing out that a deal would need to be finalized with the next two weeks if the new aerial imagery is to be taken in 2018.