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Friday, October 6th, 2017

County to implement text-to-911

By William Kincaid
CELINA - The Mercer County Sheriff's Department soon will have text-to-911 capabilities, allowing people to report emergencies through text messages.
Sheriff Jeff Grey said his staff has been eyeing the technology and wants to proceed after striking a deal that will provide his office with text-to-911 services at no cost in exchange for hosting a router owned by Communication Venture Corp., doing business as INdigital of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
"If you see an accident or you see something, you'd be able to send us a text message instead of calling 911, and it will pop up on our screen," Grey told county commissioners Greg Homan, Rick Muhlenkamp and Jerry Laffin this week. "We can also text back to you."
Many people today, mostly younger residents, prefer to text rather than make phone calls, he said. The technology would also allow people in situations in which they don't want to be heard calling the sheriff's office, such as a child watching his parents fight, send a text message instead.
"So we get the information. Nobody knows that they sent it to us," Grey said.
The company is also working on an upgrade that would allow people to send pictures, which Grey said would be particularly useful when people come upon accidents. The pictures, Grey noted, would help personnel determine how to respond.
Once the upgrade is ready, the office will be able to take advantage of it, Grey said.
When the jail was built about a decade ago, local officials agreed to allow INdigital, a certified telecommunications company specializing in 911 services, to host a router at the jail. Grey said he's not really sure of the reason why local officials agreed to do that but now feels the county should be compensated for housing the router.
"Some of the counties on the Ohio-Indiana border wanted to put a router in our office," he said. "The deal was they'd put this router in our office and we'd be able to transfer things back and forth between the states."
If commissioners decided to end the agreement, the company would need to find a new home for the router, which provides 911 services for many counties, Grey said.
Company officials offered to provide text-to-911 capability to the county at no cost in exchange for equipment rack space, electricity and 24-hour access to the equipment room at the jail, he explained.
"We get it for free as long as we want it," he said.
The text-to-911 service would have cost the county nearly $2,500 in equipment and a $3,860 annual fee, Grey said.
Commissioners on Thursday approved a resolution authorizing the agreement with INdigital.
Also on Thursday commissioners approved Grey's request to renew the maintenance agreement for video visitation booths with GTL. The annual software maintenance cost is $2,089.
"Video visitation allows for inmates to visit with their friends and families from the dorm unit they are housed in," Grey wrote to commissioners.
Commissioners also approved Grey's request to renew an agreement with Everbridge for Nixle alerts. The annual cost is $5,150.
"We are currently using the Nixle software to alert our county citizens by text messages. The text messages alert citizens about road closings, weather conditions, accidents, etc.," Grey wrote in a letter to commissioners. "Our citizens have become accustomed to these alerts and the sheriff's office would like to continue this service."
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