West Central Consolidated Communications (WC3), the central police/fire dispatch center that serves Brookfield, North Riverside, Riverside and McCook, is in line to receive about $913,000 in state grant funding to help offset technology infrastructure startup costs and also create a cash reserve for the fledgling agency, which went live in May.
Officials from the villages had been hoping for some financial relief after spending more than $1.2 million to establish WC3 after the Illinois General Assembly mandated that municipalities with populations less than 25,000 join forces with their smaller neighbors to consolidate emergency E911 service.
While savings are predicted years down the road, the expense to create WC3, in particular the decision to install and lease the agency’s own fiber-optic communications lines, was a hefty burden – more than $700,000 on its own. Maintaining the fiber-optic network is expected to cost WC3 about $18,000 annually.
“Having paid up front, now we’ll just have to pay for the annual maintenance cost,” said Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances, who serves as chairwoman of WC3’s executive board. Brookfield’s village manager, Timothy Wiberg, and North Riverside’s village administrator, Guy Belmonte, are also on the executive board.
The heavy cost of that initial infrastructure investment caused some consternation this past summer, but the grant will soften some of that blow.
“By paying for the fiber network as a one-time payment with annual maintenance, WC3 was able to seek reimbursement for the total capital costs,” Frances said. “If the payment was structured differently, for example, payments made over the term of the 20-year [fiber network lease] agreement, the grant would only be reimbursed for the costs incurred up to the date of the grant request.”
Frances said WC3 is the first consolidated dispatch agency to be awarded a state grant for installation of a fiber-optic network.
According to Frances, the three principal members of WC3 and McCook, which is an associate member, will split $469,000 of the grant as reimbursement for fiber-optic network expenses.
The remainder of the grant will be used to establish a fund balance for WC3 to help maintain a source of funds to pay expenses on an ongoing basis. Since WC3 was established in 2016, it has simply billed member villages as expenses needed to be paid.
Establishing a fund balance for WC3 is important for the agency “so we’re not always playing catch-up with respect to paying bills.”
But it will also help member communities by reducing the administrative burden of continual invoices and creating an ability to plan better.
“What’s also significant is that we won’t be asking member communities for additional money to start a fund balance,” Frances said.
While WC3 does not have an official notice of the grant award from the Illinois State Police, which is administering the state’s 911 System Consolidation Grant Program, the agency has completed the grant reimbursement request paperwork. The agency’s initial grant request was $1.2 million.
Riverside Finance Director Karin Johns, according to Frances, worked closely with WC3 executive Director Jason Rodgers and grant writer Todd Kupsak on its initial grant application.
Frances said the grant money should be in local hands probably in early 2019.