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Two counties one 911 system

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

Commissioners in Doddridge and Ritchie counties are sailing in uncharted waters these days as they work together to form the state's first multi-county unified 911 system.

Other 911 centers in the state cover more than one county, said Doddridge County Commissioner Ora Ash, but those were all started in one county and then expanded to include other counties.

"We're in a very unique situation here," Ash said. "Both counties are having a say in what goes on and how it's set up.

"This isn't a situation where an existing 911 center takes on a new county, it's two counties starting together. The goal is for the center to treat Doddridge and Ritchie counties as one big region."

Ash said commissioners have been discussing a 911 center for several years. Initially, the idea was for Pleasants County to be included, he said, but commissioners there opted out of the plan.

Ash and Ritchie County Commission President Sam Rogers say they would like to have the system up and running within 18 months. Officials now are waiting for an attorney to complete the first draft of the agreement.

"It's not moving as fast as I would like, but one of the reasons it's taking a little longer is that the lawyer can't just go out and get someone else's paperwork to use as a guide," Rogers said.

"This is something that's completely new to everyone, so it's a little slow."

Even after the agreement is drawn up and ratified, much work still remains before 911 is a reality in Doddridge and Ritchie counties.

"There's the mapping, which we will need to get started and completed and we'll be meeting about computers and other equipment," he said. "We'll have to get radios for the police and ambulances and fire departments and there are a lot of other things that need to be done."

One of the biggest potential expenses -- constructing a building -- was eliminated when the state Regional Jail Authority agreed to add office space to the new state police barracks that will be built near the North Central Regional Jail, Ash said.

"This will be real good because it will be designed as a 911 center," he said. "The state agreed to pay for it because there is a benefit putting it there and they could see the advantages to them as well as the counties."

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com.

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