City’s 911 system to be upgraded

New software will link Whitewater with Walworth County

By Dave Fidlin

A long-anticipated upgrade in Whitewater’s police and public safety communication systems will soon be implemented, following a decision last week by city officials.

Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher came before the Common Council on Aug. 19 and received authority to upgrade the city’s existing 911 system by purchasing new software. Elected officials also signed off on a proposal to link Whitewater’s municipal communications system with the one in use by Walworth County staffers.

The city will replace 911 software through a new service provider known as Solacom.

“Command staff has reviewed available options for the 911 system and has selected the Solacom 911 system,” Otterbacher said. “(It) will replace the existing 911 system, which is no longer a supported system.”

The Walworth County Sherriff’s Department command staff already subscribes to Solacom 911, and Otterbacher said that scenario further guided police personnel in bringing the recommendation forward to the Common Council.

“(Using Solacom 911) would further facilitate any further connection between the two communications centers,” Otterbacher said.

Across the country, Otterbacher said 12 companies are authorized to sell and service Solacom software. Three of those companies have the capability to serve Whitewater and each provided a quote for the start-up and ongoing maintenance costs.

The council went with the lowest bidder, Johnsburg, Ill.-based Radicom. The firm submitted a  $94,620 quote to purchase the equipment and a $6,614 price tag for annual maintenance costs.

The oft-mentioned communications bridge plan between the dispatch centers linked to the Whitewater Police and Walworth County Sheriff’s departments also is officially moving forward.

“Staff has been working with representatives from Walworth County for several months to evaluate the feasibility of establishing a communications bridge,” Otterbacher said.

In a report to the council, Otterbacher outlined the costs of linking up with Walworth County dispatchers. All told, the equipment upgrades are expected to cost $233,755, by Otterbacher’s estimation. Some of the infrastructure has already been purchased for other, related initiatives.

During the recent review, Otterbacher said there has been resounding support toward the bridge system.

“Staff collectively believes that the best option for the Whitewater Communications Center at this time would be pursuit of a communications bridge,” Otterbacher said.

“The concept maintains a local communication center, at current staffing levels, that will continue to serve and support increasing local demand for emergency and non-emergency services for the community,” Otterbacher added.

At last week’s meeting, Otterbacher pointed out the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s command staff also backs the bridge plan.

Linking up with Walworth County was first discussed more than a year ago. Since presenting a staff study to the Common Council in June 2013, Otterbacher and other police officials have reviewed the plans.

The council has backed the both efforts, as evidenced by placing the funds necessary to see them through in this year’s municipal budget.

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