UI to serve as backup for communication center

BY HOLLY HINES | JULY 22, 2009 7:15 AM

Officials are debating how much say the UI will have in policies regarding the new Johnson County Joint Emergency Communication Center.

The UI has representation on the advisory board — which is composed of emergency-system experts who focus on the inner workings of the center — but no UI public-safety official has the capacity to vote on policy and financial matters.

One main factor plays into the current decision. Several board members — who have the authority to choose new representatives — noted the university is not a taxpaying entity and therefore may not qualify.

“[The university] is a different type of animal,” said Iowa City City Councilor Mike Wright, a member of the policy board.

However, the university is closely linked to the project, which will combine city and county emergency-dispatch centers. University security facilities will serve as backup for the new center, being built just outside Iowa City on Melrose Avenue.

Wright said the UI’s status as a backup facility may have an effect on the board’s decision.

The UI facilities would be needed in case of system failure at the main site, such as one caused by catastrophic weather, said Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey.

Choosing the UI as a backup benefits both the county and the university. The UI security facility needed updated equipment, which the county provided. Both sites will have tools communication-center staff would be familiar with.

Bailey, also a policy board member, said she supports maintaining the current board structure — in which the UI does not have representation.

She noted current board member are all officials who were voted into office.

If the UI is allowed representation, Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police, may fill the position. Green declined to comment, citing the pending status of the decision.

The policy board intends to discuss the situation during its next meeting, at the end of July, Wright said.

Construction on the new center should be complete by the end of the summer, said Johnson County Supervisor Terrence Neuzil.

Other aspects, however, are still about a year away from completion. Officials are seeking locations for radio towers, intended to increase the reliability of communication between the center’s base and deputies on-site at emergency situations.

The center could open at the end of summer 2010.

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