The walls and part of the roof are up for the new Boone County Emergency Communication Center, which sits next to the Sheriff’s Department Annex building on County Drive.
Little Dixie Construction, LLC is taking on the $12.8 million dollar project. Work officially began in February, but a wet Missouri summer has caused 41 rain days. The building is expected to be completed by June 2016.
Funding for the new Emergency Communication Center was made possible by a 3/8 cent sales tax passed by voters in April 2013.
“Boone County has grown significantly since 1977 when the first contracts were made with Joint Communications,” said Karen Miller, District I Boone County Commissioner. “We needed a place where we could keep up with technology.”
Miller said more people are using their cell phones to call 911 in emergency situations, which sometimes creates congestion when several people call about the same incident.
“It’s the answer to a problem that’s been occurring at Joint Communications for a number of years,” said Chad Martin, Director of Joint Communications. “The 911 calls coming in from cell phones and the population growth alone has increased, but the staff in there has not significantly increased to handle the volume of calls.”
Martin said the new center will employ more people to better handle those influx of calls in emergency situations.
“As a first responder, having the need for that information to flow from the 911 caller all the way out to the apparatus, it’s paramount for us for that to happen as efficiently as possible,” said Chief Randy White with the Columbia Fire Department. “That’s the most important thing to quickly and swiftly move out to the person in need and we think this will help tremendously.”
The center will also feature state-of-the-art technology to replace the outdated systems at Joint Communications. Miller said they plan to have contracts in place that will automatically upgrade to the latest technology.
Martin said they are working with the Boone County IT Department to finalize the technology upgrades. They will also decide what Computer Aided Dispatch vendor they will be using among all emergency agencies.
“We haven’t had the ability yet to have mobile data terminals in our fire trucks, so we’re still relying pretty heavy on radio traffic,” Chief White said. “It will just allow to make the flow of information even better.”