The ability to scale systems easily across jurisdictions, eliminating the high cost of maintaining redundant services, makes the case for local public safety IT consolidation.
The recently launched $23.2 million Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Center was built with technology consolidation – and cost conservation – top of mind.
The center, which officially opened April 29, offers 911, computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and other emergency systems on a shared-service basis to dozens of municipalities, police departments and fire departments across the county. Its reach also extends beyond public safety systems: local government agencies can also avail themselves of backup and recovery systems.
Shaun Golden, Monmouth County’s sheriff, said the center is the largest such facility in New Jersey. It has enough capacity to support all 53 municipalities in the county and was designed to accommodate 35 percent population growth. Monmouth has a population of 629,384, according to the 2012 census.
The center is the latest illustration of a new model in public safety networks. Jurisdictions that can scale their IT systems offer a technical and financial solution for communities that can’t afford to maintain their own, redundant services.
Monmouth’s Public Safety Center uses a hub and spoke network topology to provide shared services. The network hub, which resides at the center, uses Cisco Systems switches and firewalls. Golden said 138 virtual private network tunnels link remote agencies to the network core and the center’s centralized resources.
The center offers its resources on a fee-for-service basis. Customers pay a monthly charge, which covers maintenance services and 24/7 help desk access. The level of support is tiered, with different fees applying to different service levels.
When a shared services arrangement is negotiated with a town, Monmouth sends out radio systems and IT technicians to evaluate the jurisdiction’s equipment needs and to assess what changes need to take place before implementation, Golden said. For example, some public safety agencies operate antiquated base stations that must be converted because they won’t work with the county’s software.
The case for consolidation
The opening of the new 45,000 square foot center – 10 times the size of the county’s previous public safety facility – intersects with some of local governments’ critical needs.
Budget-conscious agencies, questioning the efficiency of maintaining their own systems when similar services might be available just across the county line, are looking to economize on IT and communications.
Monmouth’s public safety center provides such jurisdictions a range of solutions to tap into, including CAD and records management systems from Spillman Technologies, a 700 MHz Motorola trunk radio system and EMC storage.
For small nearby towns and jurisdictions, those technologies are otherwise out of reach, both physically and financially. “The main focus was shared services and consolidation,” Golden said of the center.
Golden noted that none of the county’s local police departments have more than 90 officers and some employ only seven or eight. Shared services has become a compelling option for cash-strapped agencies attempting to juggle technologies as varied as CAD and records management on a limited budget.
Plus, times have been tough since the economic downturn began in 2007. “We have seen what it does to municipalities, county and state budgets” Golden said.
Lately however, local governments have begun accelerating their transition to shared IT resources, and are starting to see tangible results. According to Golden, 27 police departments and more than 70 fire and emergency medical services departments now take advantage of the shared infrastructure.
It’s no wonder sharing and consolidation is trending. The proof is in the bottom line. “Generally, they are seeing savings of about 50 to 70 percent savings,” Golden said. What’s more, for Monmouth, fees generated via shared services will amount to more than $4 million annually, which will provide for a payback period of less than 10 years.