Negotiations almost complete on contracts to integrate public safety records

Negotiations on two contracts to implement a project to update and integrate all public safety records and information systems in Anoka County are nearing completion.

The vision for the project is to create a data system which enhances public safety by improving data sharing across agency boundaries and at the same time, achieving the financial and operations efficiencies of a shared countywide system.

A request for proposals was sent out last year by the Anoka County Joint Law Enforcement and the Anoka County Fire Protection Council after a needs assessment had been conducted with the assistance of a California company, DELTAWRX, which was retained by the Anoka County Board to help prepare the assessment and the request for proposals documentation.

The Joint Law Enforcement Council and Fire Protection Council have put in place a committee to spearhead the project.

From those responses, two vendors for the “full system,” which includes law enforcement records and computer-aided dispatch/mobile data, and one fire records vendor were identified for evaluation.

The vendors’ systems were demonstrated to an evaluation team, which also visited agencies that currently use these systems and talked with system users and administrators.

Earlier this year, one law enforcement/computer-aided dispatch vendor and one fire records vendor were chosen and contract negotiations began.

According to Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo, who chairs the Joint Law Enforcement Council, negotiations are almost  finished on the law enforcement/computer-aided dispatch records system, but are not as far along on the fire records system contract.

“We hope to have them wrapped up by the end of August,” Palumbo said.

Under both contracts, full integration into a countywide public safety data is required.

“We are getting very close to contract signings,” Palumbo said.

“There no imposed deadlines, but we want to move as quickly as we can.”

Both contracts would require the approval of the Anoka County Board.

According to Palumbo, the system will be installed in stages, but it is hoped that the computer-aided dispatch component in Central Communications will be on line in 2014.

“The present computer-aided dispatch system is nearing the end of its useful life and it is a pressing matter,” Palumbo said.

The final piece of the puzzle will be to integrate the jail management system into to the new countywide public data system, he said.

There is no final cost figure estimated for the project, but the Minnesota Legislature in 2011 established an $8 million cap in the county’s bonding authority for the project.

“We hope that it will be much less than that,” Palumbo said.

The project will be paid for through the sale of general obligation bonds by the county board, but this has not yet taken place.

The legislative bonding authority the county is using for the project is the same as 800 countywide megahertz radio system which was implemented in 2003 when $10.2 million in bonds were sold.

Those bonds were paid off through a line item that appeared on property tax statements each year and totaled about $7 annually on a $200,000 home.

According to Cevin Petersen, county division manager for finance and central services, the last payment for that project was on the 2012 property tax statements.

The 2013 property tax statements had the first installment of the countywide public safety data system costs, Petersen said.

“The pay back period will be shorter than the 800 megahertz, which was spread over 10 years,” he said.

In its resolution adopting the 2013 tax levy and budget in December 2012, the Anoka County Board included a levy for bonds to be issued to finance a portion of the public safety system in the amount of $1 million.  The current public information systems in the county are fragmented with different systems being used by different public safety agencies within the county, according to materials provided by the Joint Law Enforcement Council and Fire Protection Council.

For example, call records in the 911 dispatch center are not integrated with either police or fire records, while the countywide law enforcement records systems, at 12 years old, is at the end of its lifespan, the Joint Law Enforcement Council and Fire Protection Council state.

In addition, the county’s jail records require detention deputies to handwrite data already entered into the police records system so that it can be re-keyed into the jail records system.

Each time data is transferred from one system to the next time is wasted and errors occur, according to the Joint Law Enforcement Council and Fire Protection Council.

The new system is designed to reduce redundancies and errors, while improving efficiencies and security, the Joint Law Enforcement Council and Fire Protection Council state.

The county board at its meeting July 25 approved hiring a systems project leader for the information technology department, who would specifically work with Central Communications to provide information technology resources as it automates almost all its business processes.

The approval of the position is contingent on decisions of the Joint Law Enforcement Council regarding the countywide public safety data system project, as well as availability of E911 funding.

According to Susan Vreeland, county director of information technology, the E911 funding is revenue collected by the state from the telephone companies through a line item on customers’ monthly telephone bills.

“The systems project coordinator would be a resource for Central Communications to analyze technology needs, business requirements and systems functions,” Vreeland told the county board.

Support for the countywide public safety data project has come from the county’s 21 municipalities.

The Anoka County Joint Law Enforcement Council was created in 1970 to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement in the county. It comprises representatives from all law enforcement agencies in the county as well as city councils and the county board.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]