After planning, applying and, for a while, despairing, the Routt County Communications department will receive a new computer dispatch system thanks to a federal grant of more than $1.5 million.
Officials had moved the program to the bottom of the priority list when the economy made the plan financially unfeasible. When the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance granted the money a month later than expected, the project was revived and likely will be in place by next summer.
Steamboat Springs Information Systems Manager Mike Schmidt said the benefits to law enforcement officers are twofold.
Law enforcement agencies countywide will use the money to upgrade the equipment inside each car and at the Routt County Communications dispatch center, allowing officers to look up suspects and car information and enter reports from their vehicles, Schmidt said, adding that the upgrade will increase productivity.
Officers also will be able to get reports about people and cars they have pulled over, giving the officers background the suspects and helping them know when to call for backup, thereby improving safety, Schmidt said. The system also will allow officers to look at maps of crime in the area.
Schmidt worked with Terry Barber, the director of information systems for Routt County, and grant writer Winnie DelliQuadri to complete the grant in March and April. Schmidt said the project has been discussed for a long time, but when the economy crashed, it looked unlikely that the money would be available.
"One of the things that made us a good candidate for (the grant), and got it awarded, is that we had already been looking at replacing our system last year, but when the economy went south, we lost the money for it," he said. "We had pretty much resigned ourselves to shelving all the work we had done."
Routt County Communications Director JP Harris said he expected to hear back about the grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance by August.
"Because of the cost of the new system and the economy, we did put it on the back burner," he said. "We're excited to have received it."
The system will tie together all law enforcement agencies in the county, Harris said, and allow other agencies to access the system as needed.
The project also will create three jobs: a project manager, an information systems specialist and a data migration engineer.
Schmidt said the project manager will be contracted for 18 months and the data migration engineer will be contracted for six months. The information systems specialist will be contracted for a year, and then the position likely will become a salaried city job.
Routt County commissioners said the grant will be a boon to the city and county.
"It's just a great example, I think, of collaboration and partnership," Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.
"I think the big thing is we're getting money for something we planned on replacing ourselves," fellow commissioner Doug Monger said.
The city and county likely will begin accepting bids in March 2010 and start installing the project once a bid is accepted. Schmidt said there are several companies that create the software and hardware needed, and he expects five or six companies to bid for the work.
Reporter Brandon Gee contributed to this story.