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Sheriff wins $3.6 million grant for 911 center upgrade

The North Carolina 911 Board has awarded Henderson County Sheriff'sDepartment a $3.6 million grant to relocate the Henderson County E-911 Center to the Henderson County Law Enforcement Center and replace all outdated equipment.

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners voted in June to authorize the relocation of the E-911 Center to available space in the Law Enforcement Center due to increasing concerns about infrastructure, equipment failure, security issues and lack of space at the current location, as well as the end-of-life status of most equipment.

The state grant does not free up local tax dollars, county finance analyst Amy Brantley said, because the county had not budgeted money for the project. County Engineer Marcus Jones, she said, had been working on the grant to fund the capital expense.

The main goal of the relocation project is to ensure that the citizens of and visitors to Henderson County receive the highest quality of service when they experience an emergency, a news release said. 

"The safety of our citizens is a top priority for the Board of Commissioners," Chairman Charlie Messer said in a statement. "By moving the E-911 Center to the Law Enforcement Center we are further ensuring the ability to rapidly respond to 9-1-1 calls."

According to director of communications Lisha Corn, the scope of this project includes:

  • Relocation of the current 911 Center to the new Law Enforcement Center.
  • Replacing all equipment that has reached end of life, is without vendor support or is technically outdated.
  • Integrating new technologies that will allow the 911 Center to communicate, transfer and share data across jurisdictional boundaries, enable geospatial call routing and receive text messages when that service becomes available.
  • Providing a more secure facility that meets proposed 911 Board standards and industry best practices for the installation, performance, operation and maintenance of 911 centers.
  • Providing a facility with appropriate work space and room for future growth.

The Henderson County E-911 Center dispatches law officers and emergency personnel for four law enforcement agencies, 30 fire stations, and four EMS stations. The 911 Center processes an average of 200,000 emergency and non-emergency calls annually and dispatches over 124,000 calls for service. The E-911 Center currently occupies approximately 2,700 square feet in the basement of the Emergency Services building on King Street. The new 911 Center will occupy approximately 7,500 square feet in the Law Enforcement Center.

Each spring the North Carolina 911 Board accepts applications from Public Safety Answering Points for Consolidation Grants, Regional Initiatives & PSAP Enhancement/Replacement Grants. This year the NC 911 Board awarded over $11 million to Public Safety Answering Points in North Carolina. The award for Henderson County was the second largest in the state. The 911 Board made the award on June 28.

"We are very pleased to be selected to receive this grant that will allow Henderson County to properly upgrade our Emergency Communications Center," Henderson County Sheriff Charles McDonald said. "Much of our equipment is well past service life and parts no longer produced must be obtained through salvage. It is fortunate that commissioners and planners, knowing that the Communications Center would eventually need to be consolidated into the new Sheriff's Office, built the current sheriff's office with that space available.

"This space allows us to be better able to meet security standards, upgrade obsolete equipment, and consolidate critical personnel and resources. This grant will enhance the emergency operations capabilities and safety of all emergency services personnel. With the shortage of funding generally available to counties, this grant could not have come at a more opportune time for Henderson County."

The 911 center move and upgrade will take 12-18 months, the sheriff's department said.