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Columbia County Dispatch Center

Columbia County dispatcher Leonel Ramirez handles a call to the dispatch center in Portage during a 2014 interruption in 911 service.

Daily Register file photo

PORTAGE — Columbia County is on track to join neighboring counties and award its emergency dispatch and communications contract to Spillman Technologies.

The proposed purchase agreement of $680,220 was approved Monday by the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee. The search for a replacement communications system for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, which also manages dispatch for area municipalities, was narrowed down to Salt Lake City-based Spillman Technologies and Zuecher Technologies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In September 2017, the committee decided to move forward with Spillman.

“A large part of the decision was that other departments are using the same programs and it would be really easy for us to talk to each other with our data — that’s why we went with them,” said committee member Mark Sleger. “They just seemed really adaptable.”

The purchase price had been discussed in the area of more than $1 million, with Sleger crediting the lower price to work by Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Darrel Kuhl and his predecessor, Mike Babcock.

Spillman spokewoman Sarah Huizingh said in an email that Flex, the program Columbia County plans to purchase, is used by 184 agencies in Wisconsin.

“Some agencies host their own database, while others participate in shared database system,” Huizingh said. “Either way, Flex optimizes multi-jurisdictional data sharing.”

Spillman has been the firm of choice for Sauk, Dodge and Juneau counties.

On Monday, the committee focused on how to fund purchase of the Spillman system.

The warranty costs of $271,000 could be paid at the start of the payment schedule, as opposed to increasing each year if paid separately over three years. Kuhl said. “So it’s a savings of $60,000 or $70,000 over the few years.”

Columbia County Comptroller Lois Schepp said in the past the county has bundled some of the maintenance costs with the amount borrowed for purchases.

“So we said, the software is $560,000 and $120,220 was identified as 911, and that was easy because we were able to go back to those ATC funds,” Schepp said, referring to the windfall the country received from environmental impact payment by the utility company after installation of new power lines. “And then we got the balance of $439,780 that is going to be paid when we restructure our debt.”

Columbia County Sheriff Dennis Richards was unavailable for comment.