911 emergency response

The Joint 911 Advisory Committee will meet Oct. 1 with area elected officials hoping this will lead to improved communications among Cole County emergency agencies and alleviate issues they have with 911 service.

At last Thursday’s Cole County Commission meeting, Jefferson City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus and Presiding County Commissioner Marc Ellinger said they would contact members appointed earlier to see if they still were interested in serving.

This came about after Sheriff Greg White came to the commission last month with concerns that no one at the Jefferson City Police Department, which runs the 911 center, was addressing concerns with the service.

It was also pointed out that the advisory group has not met in over a year.

The latest agreement between the city and county for 911 started in 2010.

The agreement allows for the contract to be renewed by the county, to serve all emergency services outside the Jefferson City limits, and the county has until the end of October to let the city know whether it will renew.

“What I’m seeing is an appalling lack of communication,” Nickolaus said. “I tell my people to pick up the phone and call, don’t send an email because that’s a terrible way to communicate.”

“Good open communication is what we want,” Ellinger said.

Speaking to White, Nickolaus said, “If you have a problem and can’t get with the chief, then I’m next up. I hear from my people they have a hard time getting with the Sheriff’s Department on issues, so this needs to stop.”

White said he had no problem talking with Nickolaus.

The sheriff hopes the group will address concerns he has over being able to dispatch from alternate locations, in cases of emergency or power outages.

Nickolaus pointed out they were able to continue sheriff’s dispatching during a recent equipment replacement. White had worried that wouldn’t be possible since his department, the Lincoln University Police Department and Missouri Highway Patrol all use the MOWINS statewide communications system and the police department does not.

Nickolaus said it will not be possible for the city to get that system because it would cost an estimated $1 million.

The advisory board can not have any elected or appointed government officials serving on it nor can any representatives who work for emergency agencies serve on it.

White had told commissioners he thought the advisory committee should be made into an administrative committee to make 911 an independent operation.

“I think it’s still best if we (the city) maintain control of the service because if you look at other counties that have done that, such as Boone, Callaway and Osage, it’s led to higher costs and I don’t think it’s fair to taxpayers,” Nickolaus said. “We are elected officials and an independent board is not.”

White, along with Cole County Ambulance Director Mike Shirts, said they believed if the advisory committee meets they can address their concerns and that would lead to better service.

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