BOONE COUNTY, Mo. - Boone County 911 leaders are already planning for upgrades in the next couple years. On Tuesday voters said yes to increase the sales tax to improve public safety. The money will fund improvements to the current 911 center; however it will be a while before we'll actually notice those changes.
The plan includes a new building, adding more staff, and new equipment, however it all takes time. That means the current 911 facility's struggles will continue for at least for six months.
After nearly a year of debates and planning, the ball is finally rolling for fixing Boone County's 911 problems. "Now that it has passed you have got to get busy looking at what the priorities are," said Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey.
Meetings about those priorities started on Wednesday and at the top of the list is addressing where things currently stand. "Right now we have one call-taker for 165,000 population, so what we are trying to do is add four call-takers per shift," said Carey.
Currently those in need of help sometimes wait three to five minutes for that one call taker. Until a new building is finished, only two more positions can be added. "I think adding one operator will help significantly; I think adding two is going to be more so on and so forth. But it's going to be probably a good year or two years before we see a big difference in the operations room," said Carey.
The reason is due to the fact the tax doesn't start until October. Plus, once employees are hired only a few can train at the same time. "It's going to be late fall before those operators are going to be able to operate in the 911 room with out a training officer," said Carey.
Until these changes are made, it's still going to be difficult for crews to respond to emergencies in Boone County. When ABC 17 News asked if they were worried about safety in the meantime, Carey said "Yeah, ever since I was involved in this since May 2012, I have been concerned about that, and will continue to be concerned about it."
After deteriorating public safety has been prevalent for around two decades, county leaders are asking everyone to be patient for a little longer. "Just have faith in us and we will come through for you," said Carey.
The Sheriff told ABC 17 News they will be filling the emergency management director position.
The whole process will also take time while the department transfers from being under the city's management to the county's management. As that happens over the next few months, the city and county will also have to figure out how these new hires will be paid.