Voters will soon decide the fate of three bond initiatives -- public works, public safety and parks and recreation -- in September's special election.
In the second part of our election series, the Roundup explores the bond issue dealing with public safety.
If the public safety bond initiative is approved, $3.5 million will be pumped into an overhaul of police and fire communication systems, a new fire station on Tyler Parkway and Highway 260 and a remodel of the fire station on Main Street.
Outdated communication system
The current communication system used by the police and fire departments is a 12-year-old, DOS-based system called LEADS. According to both departments, the system goes down frequently, forcing dispatchers to hand-write information on sticky notes.
"The dispatchers manually keep records and when the system comes back up, they have to go back and put the information in," Support Services Manager Della Bradley said.
In their proposal before the Capital Improvements Committee, the group of 15 citizens who made recommendations to the council on what projects should become bond issues, the department described some of the issues with the LEADS system.
- The LEADS company is severely reduced in size and there is only one person available for customer service.
- The DOS-based system is antiquated and non-compliant with any new programs, nor are there any updates available.
- In the event of a program crash, it is doubtful that records would be recoverable.
- he DOS keystroke system only allows for one working desktop to be opened at a time. This process adds time to data entry and response time.
- he police department is currently experiencing system errors that are more difficult to fix, resulting in more damaged files. A serious crash that will interrupt access to records and computer-aided dispatch functions is on the horizon. This includes hazard information, in-house safety records, criminal reports and a host of other irreplaceable data.
- ystem lock-ups in the middle of calls may result in severe officer safety issues.
"This week we are encountering what we call ID errors in the LEADS system," Bradley said. "When we are entering the name of an individual, it tells us ‘ID error' and it won't track the individual in the case."
Bradley said the system went down just last week.
"We were down for about 30 minutes because everyone has to go out of the program for them to go in and do the repair, meaning that we can't access our in-house files if an officer needs to know an address, date of birth, or if there have been previous contacts with this person, or if they have weapons ..." Bradley said.
The other issue with the fragile system is the loss of valuable records.
"We have lost records -- quite a few some years back," Bradley said. "We had to manually go back through all the logs and it took months."
The new communication system that would be installed if the bond is passed is one that works for both the police and fire departments, she said.
The Windows-based system is used by several communities including Sedona, Paradise Valley and Coolidge. The new system would include laptops, or Mobile Data Terminals, in all police and fire vehicles.
"The new system will improve response times by one to two minutes," Police Chief Gordon Gartner said. "The dispatchers will get the 911 call and will be typing the information and dispatching at the same time, and the officer will have the information right on his screen."
"If you're in trouble and need help, a minute is a long time," Police Sgt. Rod Mamero said.
"With the mapping system in the program, you'll be able to see where your units are," Bradley said.
The system would allow for direct communication between officers in the field, access to databases that help with identification, and a mapping program.
"The geo-based mapping system can flag a house where we had problems before, or if there are hazardous materials in a building that is on fire," Mamero said. "We can then plan our response."
The system would not only cut response times, but man hours and expenses, according to Mamero.
"We spend $6,000 a year on Polaroid film," Mamero said. "When we go digital, we can reuse the discs and save money."
According to the chief and his staff, the most critical issue at stake is safety.
"The system we have now is old," Gartner said. "It's like my 1978 Chevy pickup -- one of these days it's going to leave us stranded."
Fire stations -- remodel and response times
Included in the public safety bond initiative are two fire station projects, which were initially pulled off the table when the cost of the communication system came out higher than expected.
But Mamero and Gartner found a less costly system, which would cut the communications price tag in half.
Former Police Chief John Ross proposed that the fire station projects, once again, be considered as part of the bond initiative.
According to Ross and current Fire Chief Marty deMasi, the Main Street fire station is in serious disrepair.
"The issues are that the building is old and undersized and needs to be reconfigured to be more efficient," deMasi said. "It needs a new concrete floor and new doors."
The undersized bays on the station are visibly dented.
If approved, fire station 13 would be located near the intersection of Tyler Parkway and Highway 260. The town has been paying the Diamond Star Fire Department $21,000 a year to assist with coverage of that area, which includes exclusive subdivisions such as Chaparral Pines, the Rim Club and the Knolls.
"Having a fire station in that location would speed our response time in the eastern part of town," deMasi said. "We'll be able to put a brush truck out there. We'd have additional apparatus and an engine company out there. The primary benefit is to speed response."
The public safety bond initiative is to be paid out of a sales tax increase with a projected cost of $1 to $2 a month for the average family.
An organization called the Committee to Improve Payson, which includes members of the disbanded Capital Improvements Committee, will be holding two forums to discuss the bond initiatives. The panel discussions will be at the Payson High School auditorium from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5 and Aug. 20.
The election is conducted entirely by mail, with ballots sent to residents Aug. 7. The deadline to register to vote is Aug. 11.
For more information, contact the town clerk's office at (928) 474-5242.
Components and timing of public safety bond issue projects
Projects scheduled for the 2003-2004 fiscal year:
- omputerized firearms training system for police department: Projected cost: $65,000
Projects for 2004-2005:
- ublic safety computer-aided dispatch/ records management system and mobile dispatch terminal system upgrade: Projected cost: $1,360,800
- onstruction of fire station 13, to be located at Tyler Parkway and Highway 260: Projected cost: $1,525,000
Project schedule unidentified:
- ain Street fire station remodel and improvements: Projected cost: $460,500
- Projected cost does not include bond underwriting cost