PEKIN — A consulting firm will use the next nine weeks to plan how to reshape Tazewell County’s 911 emergency services to meet new state mandates, and how to pay the expected $2 million-plus cost.
The first formal step to meet those goals came Wednesday when the Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB), which oversees 911 services in Tazewell, chose the Richard Tucker & Associates firm based in Rapid City, South Dakota, from among four consulting candidates.
With a “kickoff meeting” on Monday, the firm will review “the whole scenario” comprised of four separate 911 dispatch centers in the county, Morton Police Chief Craig Hilliard, ETSB chairman, said Friday.
One center serves Pekin, the county Sheriff’s Department and 32 other police, fire and emergency medical service providers. East Peoria, Morton and Washington operate their own 911 call centers.
A recent state law will require Tazewell, based on its population, to consolidate to two centers at most.
The Tucker firm will analyze the best course for that change, and recommend how Tazewell’s communities might split the estimated $1.3 million cost to modernize the entire 911 system with new technology that, for example, will allow people to text 911 calls.
Hilliard said the ETSB’s own studies have shown that consolidating the Washington, Morton and East Peoria 911 centers into one facility in a new addition to the Morton Police Headquarters “would be the most beneficial” approach, in terms of staffing and other costs. The Pekin-based facility, known as the Tazewell/Pekin Consolidated Communications Center, would remain separate.
The Tucker firm will consider that option in its review, which will cover staffing, equipment and backup plans for the new system, Hilliard said.
State deadlines for consolidation and system upgrades required the ETSB to formalize its planning by hiring a consulting firm. With planning underway, the ETSB can possibly obtain extensions to the deadlines, Hilliard said.
Under the current deadlines, consolidation plans must be submitted to an Illinois State Police agency overseeing statewide 911 upgrades by October. Any new facility must be built by July of 2019, and new 911 technology must also be installed that year, Hilliard said.
The Tucker firm will be paid $23,555 for its work, from funds generated by a 911 service fee on telephone bills.
Funding sources for the technology upgrades and the proposed Morton police station expansion will be included in the consulting firm’s recommendations, Hilliard said.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin