Pointe Coupee seeking funds to modernize 911 system

The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury decided Tuesday it would attempt to obtain state funds to help improve its 911 system.

Jurors indicated they would seek more than $100,000 in funding from Louisiana’s Local Government Assistance Program to apply toward $300,000 worth of equipment upgrades the parish must install in the 911 system by a 2014 deadline.

Police Jury President Melanie Bueche said the jury’s action could also lock in commitments from private investors interested in providing additional financial assistance to the parish for the system upgrades.

“We’re showing them that we’re serious about what we’re trying to do,” Bueche said before the jury’s vote at Tuesday’s meeting.

The jury voted 9-1 to submit a grant application seeking LGAP funding.

Juror Glenn Ray Cline voted no, saying he would prefer some of the LGAP dollars be spent on roof repairs at the parish animal shelter.

The equipment upgrades are necessary because the 911 dispatch center’s operating system is outdated and the state requires the parish to install more sophisticated software.

But the need to upgrade the 911 system comes at a time when the system already faces budget shortfalls due to insufficient revenue from the tax-based system that supports the dispatch center.

Parish officials said in January it took about $800,000 to run the system during the 2011-12 fiscal year. However, tax revenue brought in only $498,214 of that amount.

Since January, the Police Jury has reactivated its 911 Commission and appointed seven board members representing entities that help fund the system.

Juror Cornell Dukes said the commission has been able to reduce 911’s shortfall so far to about $28,000 for the 2013-14 fiscal year by squeezing additional revenue from the parish’s five fire subdistricts, health service district, hospital board and the Police Jury.

Dukes serves as chairman of the 911 Commission.

“We had to go to our shareholders to ask for additional funds,” Dukes said. “We’ve solved about 75 percent of the problem. We just have 25 percent more to go.”

“The funding will get there,” Bueche added. “We have some loose ends we need to tie up. We feel like we’re going to make it and the system will be strong.”