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  • Study Vs. Reality: Why Consolidated Dispatch in Scott County Won’t Save Money PDF Print E-mail
    Feature Stories
    Written by Jeff Ignatius   
    Wednesday, 23 November 2011 06:20

    Emergency-response dispatching console, located inside the Scott Emergency Communications Center building at 1100 East 46th Street in Davenport.

    Leaders in the consolidation of Scott County emergency dispatch and record-keeping claim a number of benefits: that it has been and will be a good deal for taxpayers; that it has resulted in better interdepartmental communications between emergency responders; and that it will eventually reduce the amount of time between when an emergency call is made and when appropriate personnel are dispatched.

    But is it, as originally advertised, saving money?

    The answer to that question depends on how you look at it, but for property owners in Scott County, the bottom line is that their tax rates are higher as a direct and indirect result of the consolidation.

    The Scott County overall tax-levy rate rose by 90 cents per $1,000 of valuation in Fiscal Year 2011, as the levy for emergency management rose from 5 cents to $1.05 – nearly all of which is funding consolidated emergency dispatch. Scott County dropped its levy rate outside of emergency management, and Davenport and Bettendorf have also lowered their property-tax rates, but the net financial effect of consolidation has been property-tax rates that are anywhere from 65 cents to 90 cents higher depending on where one lives.

     
    Kitties in the Christmas Stocking: Local Author Connie Corcoran Wilson Releases a New Children's Book for the Holidays PDF Print E-mail
    Literature
    Written by Mike Schulz   
    Monday, 21 November 2011 06:00

    Connie Corcoran Wilson with granddaughters Ava and Elise WilsonSome grandmas, during the holiday season, will give toys as presents. Others will give clothes.

    Connie Corcoran Wilson, though, is giving her granddaughters a book ... that she wrote and published herself.

    “It’s my Christmas gift to the girls,” says Wilson of her new children’s book Christmas Cats in Silly Hats, the second self-published work by the much-published local author. “I wrote it for them, and thought it would be a nice present.

    “Of course,” she says with a laugh, “marketing-wise, I didn’t think it would be such a dumb thing, either. You might not rush out to buy it in July, but in December ... !”

     
    “Go Back to China”: Bo Caldwell, November 30 at St. Ambrose University’s Rogalski Center PDF Print E-mail
    Literature
    Written by Jeff Ignatius   
    Thursday, 17 November 2011 14:34

    Bo CaldwellGiven that her November 30 lecture at St. Ambrose University is titled “Finding Faith & Fiction in China,” it seems odd that author Bo Caldwell has never actually been to the country.

    Once you know her story, though, the title of the lecture (being presented as part of the school’s academic-year-long China Project) makes more sense. Caldwell might not have found faith and fiction in the physical China, but she did in a China that has disappeared – the place where her grandparents and uncle lived and worked in the first half of the 20th Century.

    “I was writing about a China that was long ago,” Caldwell explained in an interview last month. “And the country and the city of Shanghai have changed so dramatically. ... I didn’t feel like it would help me that much to go there.”

    She added that “China has a connection in a home-like way. That’s where my grandparents spent much of their lives. It’s where my mom and her siblings grew up. Chinese things when I was a kid felt like home in a weird way.”

    The Distant Land of My Father was published in 2001 and follows the outline of her uncle’s life in Shanghai – how he lost his wealth and almost his life during a tumultuous time. Last year’s City of Tranquil Light is based on the experiences of her missionary grandparents in China.

    That makes clear how Caldwell found fiction in China. But faith was a function of breast cancer and its treatment, both of which changed the nature of the book that would become City of Tranquil Light.

     
    911 Whitewash? Leaders Say the Transition to Consolidated Emergency Dispatch in Scott County Has Gone Well. It Should Have Gone Better. PDF Print E-mail
    Feature Stories
    Written by Jeff Ignatius   
    Thursday, 10 November 2011 11:00

    (This is the first of two articles on the Scott Emergency Communications Center. This piece focuses on implementation problems with emergency-response consolidation. The second part will deal with the price tag and to what extent taxpayers have gotten what they were promised.)

    Let’s start with the metaphors.

    We’re roughly six months into the transition to a consolidated Scott County emergency-dispatch and -records system, said Davenport City Administrator Craig Malin on October 6. “This is the part of the movie where ... the anxiety is. Then there’s the resolution at the end, and there’s a happy ending. We’re at that point where we’re going to be focusing on what the issues are.”

    “In a crawl/walk/run category, we stood up and got wobbly,” said Bettendorf City Administrator Decker Ploehn, also on October 6. “But we’re still standing. But we’re not walking yet. But we’re pretty much not crawling, either. So we’re working our way forward, and we hope to get to running. And I think we’re going to get to running; we’re not there yet.”

    The Scott Emergency Communications Center (SECC) brings under one roof – at 1100 East 46th Street in Davenport – what had been four dispatching centers, serving Scott County’s 12 municipal and county law-enforcement agencies, 16 fire departments, and five ambulance services.

    All those agencies are now using the same radio system, and law-enforcement agencies are also using a single record-keeping system – both of which allow for improved interdepartmental communication. Agencies went live with the system from early April through early May.

    Still to come – probably early next year – is the consolidation of each organization’s dispatchers into a single dispatching entity, and the separation of call-taking and dispatching functions. The latter of those is expected to shave 30 seconds off the time it takes to dispatch emergency responders.

    And late next year, Medic EMS will decide whether to fold its dispatching operations into SECC or just continue to have its dispatchers working out of the SECC building.

    By the standards of local government, the project is complicated. “It takes a good solid year to iron out” issues and difficulties, said SECC Director Brian Hitchcock, who previously oversaw consolidations in Ashland County, Wisconsin, and McHenry County, Illinois. “Every one of those has issues and bugs that have to be worked out. ... We all wish it could happen overnight.” He noted that every consolidation takes a different amount of time to work through, but that the one-year estimate runs through next April.

    The consolidation – recommended by a 2006 study and put into motion by a December 2007 intergovernmental agreement – is also expensive, with capital costs of roughly $28 million. The building itself cost $7.31 million. New portable radios for all agencies cost almost $7 million, purchased without a formal bidding process. Installing a “central electronics bank and associated communications gear into and around the 911 center” cost more than $1.6 million, Hitchcock said. And the dispatching and record-keeping software that has been so problematic cost $2.7 million.

     
    (Don't) Talk to the Animals: Comedian Tim Bedore, October 28 at the Establishment Theatre PDF Print E-mail
    Comedy
    Written by Mike Schulz   
    Thursday, 20 October 2011 07:58

    Tim Bedore“A guy once sent me this story,” begins comedian Tim Bedore. “He had a great muscle car from the ’60s, and he had it all waxed and polished to this beautiful shine, and he had it parked under a tree. And this squirrel started dropping nuts onto his hood, over and over again.

    “He finally moved the car underneath a different tree, because he wanted to keep the car in the shade and not ruin his perfect wax job. But after he did, the squirrel jumped over to the other tree, and started dropping nuts on the hood. It could’ve dropped them anywhere, but it had to drop them onto the hood of his car. It was a purposeful thing.

    “Now, biologists could probably come up with some explanation for this. It liked the sound. Or it thought the car was an enemy. Or,” Bedore suggests, “it just wanted to piss off a human. I mean, why not just go to the simpler explanation?”

     
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