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Published: Saturday, 12/2/2000

911 snag overcome by mayor approval

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It's a multimillion dollar, state-of-the-art 911 system that can mean the difference between life and death for those in need.

Trouble is, Toledo still can't use it.

Four years into a five-year overhaul of the Lucas County 911 system, the approximately $445,000 purchase of a radio controller that will allow the city's older radios to “talk” to the new countywide system is snagged in Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's office after he questioned the price tag and the necessity of the piece.

Fire Chief Mike Bell said an agreement reached this week may now move the project along and possibly prevent a $10,000 or more increase in price caused by the delay. City officials plan to brief the 911 communication board of the development at its meeting Monday, he said.

The mayor's office, which received the request for the expenditure in October, will forward the request to city council at its Jan. 9 meeting and ask for immediate approval. Should council OK the purchase, a check could be written from the 2001 budget, Chief Bell said.

Mr. Finkbeiner had questioned the progress of the 911 system, which until recently had been mired in indecision and unforeseen delays, and the necessity of the controller. Planners didn't realize they needed the equipment during last year's budgeting process, said Mike Justen, the city's chief operating officer.

“It came up kind of sudden that we needed this piece,” he said.

The controller will allow users on the city's 12-channel, 800 megahertz system to communicate with each other through the updated 911 system that was approved by county voters in 1996 with a 0.7-mill levy.

“That way if a guy in parks [department] wants to talk to a guy in transportation [department], he can,” said David Zawodny, who helps run the radio operations for the city.

Still, it's important to note that the 911 operations have not been affected by the confusion over the radio controller. Toledo's fire and police calls are being answered as usual - on their old system.And, the $20 million overhaul of the rest of the 911 system is proceeding as scheduled, said Dennis Cole, director of the Lucas County's emergency services.

Councilwoman Betty Shultz, who chairs council's computer committee and sits on its finance committee, said she will discuss the new equipment and the progress of the 911 overhaul during a Dec. 11 hearing.



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