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Calling for Help: 911 District Asks for Money, Employees

Rising population equals rising 911 calls equals need for more people and newer technology. It's the equation Brazos County's emergency dispatchers are presenting to local leaders. It's a step local officials are calling proactive and reactive.

After talking with Brazos County commissioners, Betsy Godwin from the county Emergency Communications District went before Bryan's council Tuesday to plant a budgetary seed.

"I think the money spent will be money well spent," Godwin said, "and I believe we have the proper documentation to prove that."

First, the request: five additional employees -- four of them call takers -- and an additional radio console. Godwin estimates the money to fill those positions is around $150,000. The radio console runs in the $85,000 range.

Add needed furniture for both of the above, and it's a price tag of around $250,000 in total, certainly a significant amount, even as part of an estimated $9 million budget for fire and EMS in the next fiscal year.

The presented need comes as 911 calls have risen significantly. Regional population growth since 2004 is in the low thousands, while calls to 911 have grown by tens of thousands -- just under 90,000 in 2004, and just over 112,000 in 2006.

With total county population expected to close in on 180,000 by 2015 according to Godwin's stats, they can only expect emergency calls to rise greatly.

"It's not above and beyond the normal," Godwin said. "When you have more population come in, unfortunately, with that comes crime and needs for service."

Overall, Godwin says an additional 10 employees are needed in a district currently staffed with 27, though they'll try to phase in those requests over the course of the next few years. They base their staffing needs on national averages and recommendations.

Costs for the Brazos County Emergency Communications District are split between Bryan and the county, with the county picking up the majority of the bill.

Godwin says the county would pay for the new equipment being requested, along with the furniture and part of the personnel costs, a total around $167,000. Bryan's bill would be around $63,000 for the rest of the personnel costs.

"We need to be proactive," Godwin said. "We need to make sure we have staffing on hand, on duty, to take care of the needs."

College Station takes care of their own dispatching of emergency personnel, though they have also indicated a need for additional staffing at their 911 center.


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