City, Clark County still at odds over emergency dispatch system

Functionality, efficiency of 9-1-1 system a key issue as Springfield leaders consider withholding payment.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Springfield city officials said they still are considering withholding a payment due to Clark County in July until concerns are resolved regarding the combined 911 public safety dispatch system.

The city may place a payment into escrow. Springfield Mayor Rob Rue issued a prepared statement Tuesday on behalf of city commissioners at the Tuesday commission meeting.

“We are committed to ensuring the safety and efficiency of our public safety operations. It is imperative that our first responders are supported by the most reliable and effective tools available. That’s why our over $1,000,000 annual contract with Clark County for the Combined Dispatch system is so critical. This contract includes vital components such as the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, the Flex System, and the Records Management System, provided by reputable vendor Motorola within a technical environment managed by CITRIX.

“However, the city faces ongoing challenges with this arrangement. Despite understanding from the outset that our city’s demands would nearly exceed those of the rest of the county by tenfold, we have encountered significant operational issues. Our dispatch center, funded by Clark County and commanded by the Sheriff’s Department, employs dedicated professionals who strive to maintain the highest safety standards, yet they are hindered by a system that has not been fully utilized. Our officials estimate that the CAD has operated at less than 50% of its capability, affecting how our Police and Fire/EMS personnel respond to emergencies,” Rue said.

In April, the city indicated payments to Clark County for systems used in the 911 emergency dispatch system would be withheld until fire and police received access to more functionalities that were promised. In response, Clark County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt established a user advisory group that began regular meetings, and both sides indicated progress in a positive direction.

However, problems persist, according to the new statement issued by the city, which alleges the employment of CITRIX was not recommended by Motorola and has led to slow information sharing and difficulties in data handling.

Flax Wilt said she has asked the city for “data to verify their assertions of safety issues for a couple months now” and has not received anything.

“We do understand that we need to make some changes to allow full functionality of the Flex system, which is a combination of policy (set by the Sheriff’s Office) and network configurations (Commission),” Flax Wilt said in a statement. “Our contract with the city does not include records management, which is required for full use of the Flex software, and we have been offering to set up a records management agreement since last August. We’ve drafted recommendations for these things and discussed them at length with city decision makers.”

Flax Wilt said the county has not received any response to its formal recommendations, “only resistance to pay the contract.” She said the city is making assumptions about things not outlined or mentioned in the contract and the county has been the “only party working to make specific recommendations on how to structure further agreements.”

City officials said the recent system crash in early June, following an update pushed out by Motorola, severely compromised dispatch capabilities and caused significant interruptions the level of emergency services. County officials said at the time Motorola offered limited assistance to bring the system back online.

During the system crash period, city public safety forces used dispatch via radios, which the county indicated was an “extremely reliable method to dispatch calls and the same method used by the city of Springfield before it contracted with Clark County.”

In response, Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck, Police Chief Allison Elliott and Fire Rescue Chief Jacob King said, “This method, although effective, becomes inefficient with the high call volume at the Springfield Police Division. Due to the amount of incident information that must be relayed to respond to a call for service, there is a potential for delayed response time, and the reliance on radio dispatching alone increases the potential for errors in receiving incident details.”

They also noted radio communications are more time consuming and “can lead to a backlog of pending calls and delayed response times. Addressing these connectivity problems is essential for maintaining our commitment to efficient, effective service delivery to the community.”

Since the outage, Flax Wilt said the system is functioning well and the county has received no work orders from the city except password resets and lost password tokens.

Rue’s newest statement recognized the county’s ongoing efforts to resolve issues, acknowledging that following the system crash “the county did prioritize repairs to the CITRIX environment, spending many hours and resources. However, the concerns about overall service quality remain.”

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