Ada County’s population has nearly tripled since the county’s 911 dispatch center opened nearly four decades ago in the basement of the Ada County Public Safety building on Barrister Drive.
“In 1977, when it opened, it was ultra-modern and ultra-sophisticated,” said Ada County Commissioner Jim Tibbs, who was a Boise police officer at the time.
Today, the 1,500-square-foot room is packed with 14 dispatch slots. If the Sheriff’s Office wanted to add a 15th slot, it couldn’t.
“Our current building is at max capacity for electricity, for cooling, for stations for our dispatchers, for capacity of call volume, all of those things,” said new Ada County Sheriff Stephen Bartlett.
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On Thursday, the county broke ground on a new 25,000-square-foot dispatch center on county-owned land in Meridian. A paramedic station and Weed, Pest and Mosquito Abatement facility already are housed on the county’s 11-acre complex near Pine Avenue and Locust Grove Road.
The new facility will cost $9.73 million. State 911 fees—$1 per month per wired or wireless phone—will cover $2.55 million of the tab. The county is using property tax dollars to pay for the rest of the project.
“They have grown as much as they can in the basement … now it is time to move on,” Tibbs said. “We aren’t kicking the can down the road any longer.”
Each month, Ada County 911 Public Safety Communications Center takes an average of 11,000 emergency calls and 21,000 nonemergency calls. The 911 center dispatches for more than a dozen agencies including the Sheriff’s Office and Boise, Meridian and Garden City police departments, six fire districts, two EMS services and, at times, state and federal firefighting agencies.
The new center, slated to open in summer 2017, will not just give dispatchers more room, it also will feature state-of-the-art technology enabling more efficient communication, tracking and reporting.
“Dispatch must work 100 percent of the time at all times,” said Bartlett. “They make sure your calls are answered whether it is a law enforcement call, a fire call, paramedic or emergency response crew that is needed to handle the call for service in the quickest way possible. That is true today, but without the new dispatch center that will not be true forever. We need updated equipment, the infrastructure to support it and a place to put it,” he said.