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After a turbulent year, including two instances of mishandled phone calls during homicide cases and the resignation of its director, the Dane County 911 Center will see large improvements in the coming year.
The Dane County Board of Supervisors passed the 2009 capital and operating budget Monday night without discussion or amendments on the significant funding increase for the 911 Center.
“I think this is a good budget,” District 4 Supervisor Brett Hulsey said. “I think it protects our citizens, our lakes and our lands, and our taxpayers.”
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and the 911 Center faced criticism for the mishandling of a call from University of Wisconsin student Brittany Zimmermann on the day she was killed in her apartment at 517 W. Doty St.
Falk announced she would include an increase in the 911 Center’s budget in the 2009 budget last September. The increase will provide nine additional staff and new computer-aided dispatching software.
Earlier this month, the 911 Center failed to dispatch properly in a situation at Lake Edge Park, which resulted in a homicide.
Two calls were made describing a noise disturbance and a number of individuals engaged in a violent fight. Police were not dispatched until a third call came in with a report of a dead body, later identified as Mark Gregory Johnson, 37, Madison.
The budget increase announcement came just prior to the resignation of former 911 Center Director Joe Norwick, who has since been unavailable for comment. A permanent replacement has not yet been hired.
Wescott said the budget increase has been planned on for a long time and is not a result of recent problems.
On Nov. 6, prior to the Board of Supervisors’ weekly meeting, an analysis of the 911 Center and recommendations were presented to the board by Travis Miller, vice president of Matrix Consulting Group, which conducted the audit.
Miller addressed staffing shortages and the issue of providing overtime pay, as well as the technology needs of the 911 Center.
“About a third of the positions stay a year or two,” Miller said Nov. 6. “It does create a hole … that’s why I say you can’t possibly get rid of overtime in a 24-hour public safety operation.”
Overall, Miller said, the center is generally well run and reminded the County Board that “no center is perfect.”
The 911 Center will also be allotted $12.6 million of a $30 million project to update dispatch radios for police and fire, which will be implemented by 2011.
“This is an enormous project,” said Supervisor Eileen Bruskewitz, District 25. “It’s going to be the largest public works project we do.”
A large number of firefighters and police officers from around the county showed up to the meeting in support of an amendment allotting an additional $638,000 for more handheld radios.
While the amendment failed 22 to 14, the initial project passed through in a vote on the complete operating budget.
Twenty percent of the 2009 operating budget goes toward public safety and criminal justice, which includes the 911 Center budget increase.