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November vote on Enhanced 911 expected

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Fayette County residents are likely to vote in November on the addition of Enhanced 911 emergency phone service for the county.

Fayette County Board Chairman Steve Knebel said at Tuesdays county board meeting that he plans to have the issue on the general election ballot.

With Enhanced 911 service, county residents provide information about their property, including the presence of hazardous materials, and their family, including particular health issues of family members.

In an emergency situation, the information provided by resident including directions to the residence immediately appear on a computer screen for use by the police and fire dispatcher. Without E911 service, the caller must provide all of that information.

Knebel said the committee researching the issue met on Monday night with the intention of making a decision on the issue.

That didnt happen, he said, but it will happen when the committee reconvenes on Thursday, June 26.

Right now, the big concern is whether we would go with one system or two systems, Knebel said. If its one system, the county would be the holder and the operator.

If its two systems, the county and city of Vandalia would each have a system.

The concern with the city is that they would be losing a number of dispatchers, he said.

I dont agree with that, Knebel said, adding after the meeting that he believes that the city and county would still need the same number of dispatchers.

With E911 service, the provider of the service is required to have a backup. Knebel said he doesnt feel that a second system in close proximity to the first is the right way to go.

If a disaster hits us, heaven forbid, something like a tornado or an earthquake, it will wipe us (county and city) both out, he said.

One option for Fayette County is to have Bond County serve as its backup, Knebel said. They are willing to speak to us about being (our) backup.

The big advantage to having just one system, he said, is the cost of implementing and maintaining E911 service.

At this point, the monthly surcharge per resident for one system would be just under $2 a month, he said. With two systems, the surcharge would be about $2.75.

The Enhanced 911 issue has been on the ballot twice in Fayette County. In 1991, a $1.25 monthly surcharge was rejected by county residents, and in 1995, a referendum with a $2.50 monthly surcharge was voted down.

Knebel formed an ad hoc committee late last year after Lockport-based GenDesign approached the county board about helping the county put the issue before voters again and to implement the service.

Other members of that committee include county board members Darrell Schaal and John Daniels Jr., Fayette County Sheriff Aaron Lay, Vandalia Police Chief Larry Eason, Vandalia Fire Chief Merle Adermann and Amy Schaal of Fayette County Hospital.

Knebel doesnt mince words when it comes to voicing his opinion on the service.

I think its a necessity, said Knebel, who has experience with Enhanced 911 in his job as an Illinois State Police officer.

If you ever use it, youll be thankful that you have it, he said. Its an insurance policy.

Two dollars a month, whats that, $24 a year? Knebel said. Thats pretty cheap insurance. Thats how Im approaching it.

After the committee meets at the end of this month, it will begin holding public meetings, at which county residents can receive information, ask questions and voice concerns, Knebel said.

He just wants county residents to understand that if they agree with him about making the service available here, it will be some time before the system is up and running.

Its going to be a slow process, he said.

He and Schaal said it took Bond County about seven years to get their system operating. The mapping and addressing takes a long time, Schaal said.