Decision on 911 center coming soon

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Posted: Thursday, January 2, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 11:11 am, Tue Mar 25, 2014.

Leaders in Sarpy and Douglas County are getting closer to signing on for a combined emergency 911 call center.

Exactly how to run and pay for one is still under debate.

For months, administrators and staff from the two county governments and cities from Omaha to Gretna have met regularly to work on ideas and potential agreements for merging 911 services.

This month, options were put in front of the elected officials making up the 911 Regionalization Governance Committee.

Among the ideas on the table is to add Sarpy County entities to Douglas County’s existing system, while another would set up a new, separate entity with its own taxing authority.

“We’re looking at what would best fit everybody’s needs and wants and desires,” said Douglas County Board Chairwoman Mary Ann Borgeson. “I think we’re close.”

Sarpy County Board Chairman Jim Warren said that with so many ideas floating around, a consensus is still down the road.

Several officials said they hope to come to a decision during the first quarter of 2014.

“Everybody’s got a lot of options out there,” Warren said. “No one’s really crossed that hurdle of is this something that’s going to happen.”

Carrie Murphy, spokeswoman for Mayor Jean Stothert, said it’s too soon for Stothert to comment on the discussions.

Papillion City Administrator Dan Hoins said during a Papillion City Council meeting last month that some of the ideas under consideration could result in substantial savings.

“We’re talking millions of dollars,” he said.

In July, a regional 911 committee found that Douglas and Sarpy Counties could save a combined $2 million annually by merging.

Borgeson said discussions have taken on new urgency because Douglas County needs to determine whether updating a property at 156th Street and West Maple Road for a center will be included in a bond issue next year.

“We would just really need to get working on what are the details of what we’re going to be asking the voters for,” she said.

Gretna City Administrator Jeff Kooistra said finding an option that’s efficient is just as important as finding one that’s a good use of taxpayer money.

“It’s about the money, but it’s also about the operation and better public safety,” he said. “You’ve got to do it right, and that’s what everybody’s concern is.”

Sharing 911 services is already working in various capacities.

Douglas County and Omaha work collaboratively on services, while Papillion, for example, has an arrangement with Sarpy County and the cities within the county.

“Expanding that is kind of the goal,” Papillion spokesman Darren Carlson said. “Finding the right way to do that is kind of the challenge.”

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