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County moves toward ‘seamless’ law enforcement, 911 system

County moves toward ‘seamless’ law enforcement, 911 system

County moves toward ‘seamless’ law enforcement, 911 system

$206,229 software would put sheriff's office and Central Dispatch on same system.


Rebecca Pierce Editor

A $206,229 public safety software platform may ultimately put the Barry County sheriff’s office in sync with the county’s Central Dispatch operation.

Tuesday, county commissioners unanimously recommended upgrading the records and jail management systems for the sheriff’s office with money from the county's data processing fund. The proposed purchase of the Records Management System and Jail Management System from CentralSquare Technologies in Sioux Falls, S.D., will be an action item on the board agenda next Tuesday.

In April, Barry County’s Central Dispatch accepted a bid of $214,000 from CentralSquare for the Zuercher (pronounced Zer-ker) platform for use as the computer-aided dispatch system, director Stephanie Lehman said. Central Dispatch is an authority with a millage specific to 911.

Central Dispatch will go live with the Zuercher system in January 2020, Lehman said.

By upgrading to Zuercher in the same time frame, the county would save on the cost of integrating the system, Undersheriff Matt Houchlei told commissioners. Plus, it would allow the sheriff’s office to be on a system compatible with Central Dispatch that would improve efficiency, responsiveness and service to residents, he said.

Information sharing between law enforcement agencies would be “seamless,” he said. The Zuercher system is supported 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. Routine upgrades are accomplished in the cloud, rather than having to physically download upgrades into each individual laptop as is required with the current Superion system, Houchlei said. Other bids were more expensive and nowhere near as robust, he noted.

“We spent a lot of time in demos to determine what would work best for us,” Houchlei said, mentioning the around-the-clock support offered with the Zuercher platform. “When something goes wrong … if a midnight deputy has a problem in corrections or on the road, they can call this company and somebody will actually answer the phone. …We’re very impressed with how the technology has improved.”

Mecosta, Osceola, Wexford counties currently use this system, Lehman said. And Monroe approved a contract at the same time as Barry County’s Central Dispatch.

When commissioners asked if platform performance had been checked with counties currently using the product, Houchlei confirmed that one of his lieutenants reached out to find out their experiences. Current users were satisfied, he said.

Some law enforcement agencies in the county use the same system as the sheriff's office. Those that use Superion – Barry, Prairieville and Woodland townships and Nashville Police Department – will have to make a choice, Houchlei said. They will need to decide whether to continue with Superion or go with Zuercher. Currently, each one has a $600 to $900 maintenance cost, he said. If they decide to continue to pay the licensing and maintenance fees, they could stay on Superion. The county will cover their licensing fees for the time being.

But Houchlei said the sheriff’s office would continue to cover those fees through the Zuercher platform as an incentive for the townships to be on the same program as the county.

Both records management and jail management systems would include not only core functionality, such as report writing and incident documentation functions, but administrative, personnel and records functionality as well, he said. The system will support accident reporting, eCitations, crime mapping, records search capabilities, record linking, audit trails and receipt and deposit functions, equipment tracking, and service dog management.

The system currently in use at Central Dispatch is from 1993, Lehman said.

The Superion system used by the sheriff’s office is 10 years old. While that platform will still be supported, it will no longer be upgraded, Houchlei said.

Lehman said the Zuercher is a more stable and secure platform than what the county currently uses.

“Right now, we’re operating on disparate systems,” she said. With the new platform, Central Dispatch and the sheriff’s office would share one database, but not all users of the system would have access to everything.

 “Potentially going forward with the jail – functionality, crossover, old facility, new facility, tying in – is this going to be a seamless transition?” Commissioner David Jackson asked. “…We’re not going to come back in five years and say’ Zuercher doesn’t like the color of our bricks, so we need to spend another $200,000’?”

Houchlei said the only change that would be required by a new, larger jail facility might be the need for more units.

Lehman noted that the issue of data conversion is huge for Central Dispatch, which will have to convert the old data into the new system. The system would have two servers, one housed at 911 and the other at the courthouse. Each one will hold 5 terabytes of data.

The county is currently paying $47,675 for annual maintenance and licensing fees for Superion. The maintenance cost for the Zuercher product would be $50,293 annually. Houchlei said the $2,618 difference in annual maintenance costs would be for “a lot better product.”

“It’s pretty spectacular,” he said. “We’re looking forward to being on the same page with Central Dispatch.”

Board Chairwoman Heather Wing pointed out that the equipment Central Dispatch has is “very antiquated” for an environment that often can be stressful.

“If there’s something going on, you need to have that seamless interface,” she said. “… I’m excited that this is one product that’s going to go from start to finish. I’m happy that you guys found it and found it at a reasonable cost.”

In other business, the board:

- Interviewed Nelly Shephard of Hastings, a retired office manager, for a vacant position on the Commission on Aging board. The 12-member COA board has two vacant seats that expire Dec. 31, 2021 and one vacant position that expires Dec. 31 of this year. These vacancies were advertised, and two applicants have been interviewed. A recommendation was made to appoint those two applicants, but the board voted to postpone the action and consider more appointments at its May 28 board meeting. In the meantime, the openings were re-advertised with an application deadline of May 20.

-Recommended approval, as requested by the community corrections administrator Tammi Price, of a fiscal year 2020 Office of Community Corrections grant application.

- Recommended approval of a $48,222 expenditure to repair a broken chiller unit at the sheriff’s office and jail facility.

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