Money from the public safety bond initiative voters passed a year ago is now in the hands of the town, ready to be spent on public safety improvements. Those improvements include an overhaul of police and fire computer systems at a cost of $1.3 million.
The computer-aided dispatch and records maintenance system may be in place in 18 months, Payson Police Sgt. Rod Mamero said.
"The most important thing is that the new system will improve response times," Mamero said. "Everything in our job is about saving time. A minute is a long time when you are waiting for help to arrive."
"The dispatchers will get the 911 call and will be typing the information and dispatching it at the same time," Police Chief Gordon Gartner said. "The officer will get the information right on his computer screen."
The current communication system used by the police department and the Payson Fire Department is a 12-year-old, DOS-based program called LEADS, which crashes on a regular basis.
"Dispatchers have to go back to the way we did it in the old days -- manually write it down," Support Services Manager Della Bradley said. "When the system comes back up, they go back and type in the information."
If the system crashes in the middle of a call, officers could be at risk, Bradley said.
"We can't access our in-house files which have information about a subject such as previous calls, or if they have weapons," Bradley said.
Mamero said another issue with the current system is that DOS is nearly extinct in the computer world. The new system is Windows-based and is currently being used in communities like Sedona, Paradise Valley and Coolidge.
A public safety computer consultant has been assisting the town with researching the best systems and will negotiate a contract with whatever provider is chosen.
Dispatchers will be able to communicate with officers in the field through mobile data computers installed in their patrol cars. Mamero said the radio will still be the primary source of communication, but being able to communicate car to car and car to dispatch with the computers will cut down on unnecessary radio traffic.
The current system has lost valuable data in the past and Mamero said recovering data in the future may be impossible. The new system has safeguards against data loss, he said.
Two other projects funded by the proceeds of the bonds are a $65,000 computerized firearms training system for the police department and a remodel of the Main Street fire station at a cost of $560,500.