Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Budget increase adds workers to 911 center staff

In the wake of criticism for protocol violations, the Dane County 911 Dispatch Center received a $600,000 increase in its budget this month for improvements in 2009.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk included seven new positions and new priority dispatching software in the proposed budget.

Falk and the 911 Dispatch Center received much scrutiny over the last few months regarding the handling of a phone call made by University of Wisconsin junior Brittany Zimmermann on the day last April she was killed in her apartment at 517 W. Doty St.

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The dispatcher who took the call from Zimmermann’s cell phone and eventually hung up did not call back or alert police authority, violating 911 protocol.

Falk said the new additions to the budget are not related to the Zimmermann issue, and added the 911 Dispatch Center was “more than sufficiently staffed on that day.”

“It is intended to ensure that our county has the best 911 response in Wisconsin,” Falk said.

The new Computer Aided Dispatching software will be the first and only dispatch system performing fire, police and emergency medical dispatch response in the state.

“As a citizen, you get the fastest response,” Falk said. “It will be better for the public and better for law enforcement.”

Madison Police Lt. Joe Balles said the demand for the improvements is due to the fact that Dane County is the fastest-growing county in the state, “adding a new Verona to the county each year.”

According to Falk, the dispatch center takes about 600,000 calls per year and the average time it takes for a dispatcher to pick up is about 1.5 rings.

The new CAD software includes a system that ranks the call situation from least to most dangerous and helps alert local law enforcement faster.

In addition to the software, the proposed 2009 budget includes several new staff positions.

“New technology means that we’ll have to be retrained — more staff for training and more dollars for that training,” Falk said.

Falk added one of the positions is for quality assurance, to check the calls coming in to assure everything is working properly.

According to Balles, the new software will be researched and implemented over the next few years.

Balles said the new budget also includes a new radio system project designed to help first responders communicate more effectively with other departments.

While the budget is still not finalized, Falk said cuts are being made in other areas of Dane County government.

Those cuts will be announced when the final budget is released Oct. 1 but will not be voted on until November.

The county will be holding public hearings to discuss the 2009 budget as a whole Sept. 2 and Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Alliant Energy Center and Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. at Madison’s City-County Building.

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