9-1-1 is extremely important to all county residents. One told me, “Each time I hear that it’s down, I feel exposed to danger.” Delivering the highest quality, dependable 9-1-1 service is paramount for safety in Bonner County. However, County Commissioners are looking for ways to save money on 9-1-1; unexpectedly announcing a plan to put cost-sharing on local entities. Rural residents are asking, how will volunteer fire departments be treated? They have no tax base.
The future of 9-1-1 is regionalization, which will save all entities money and should deliver seamless service across boundaries. When the current commissioners took office in January 2017, they declined the Department Director’s offer to be briefed on 9-1-1 regionalization and other Information Technology issues. What were they thinking? Since then, there have been department head changes, the department was split into two, and commissioners may not realize that the $127,000 grant received by Bonner County for GIS updates has been returned to the state. It might be won again, but there are no guarantees in a competitive grant environment.
Fortunately, GIS mapping is not the hurdle it might be. Kootenai County, Post Falls, CDA and Bonner County have complete GIS systems. Digital maps exist for counties that could be updated or purchased. Alternately, there are sources that provide free street data as a GIS service. These are the maps that GPS systems use so there is mapping available that could be used and improved. With resourcefulness and goal orientation, the GIS underpinnings of regionalization can get moving.
Success requires partnering with the many responders in Bonner County, technical competence, and collaborative, and steady leadership to ensure that 9-1-1 across our county meets future federal standards and reliably gets help to those in need.