Like a lot of counties across the nation, Colorado County, Texas, is struggling with budgets that aren’t what they used to be. At the same time, county leaders understand that they have an obligation to the citizenry to ensure that the public-safety technologies that it employs are as modern as possible.

For that reason, the county — which is located in the Southeastern corner of the state, about 70 miles from Houston, and which has about 20,000 inhabitants — recently became the first subscriber to a hosted next-generation solution developed by Tiburon and supported by Intrado's A911 technology. The solution marries the former’s DispatchNow computer-aided dispatch and mobility platforms to the latter’s NG-911 infrastructure.

The result is a service that provides full NG-911 capability and is quick to deploy — 90 days or less, said Ian Archbell, Tiburon’s chief marketing officer. While the service primarily is targeted to smaller agencies in Tier 3 cities, it is scalable for larger agencies, Archbell added.

The service provides Colorado County with capabilities that previously were beyond its reach due to budget constraints, according to R.H. “Curly” Wied, Colorado County’s sheriff. “This compared to what we had before is like the difference between light and dark,” he said.

The crucial additions were mobility and automatic vehicle location, both of which are critical in terms of situational awareness. For example the system recommends to dispatchers the resources that should be deployed based on their proximity to the incident. Also, dispatchers can see on their screens where units are at any given time — this would enable them to coordinate response to a car chase. Finally, AVL is important in terms of officer safety. Dispatchers could query officers should their units unexpectedly enter certain areas of the county or stay in one place for too long. If the officers don’t respond, they know exactly where to send backup.

There are other important advantages to a hosted service as compared with deploying and operating a NG-911 system. A big one is that the cost of the hosted service is roughly 40% less than what agencies would spend if they were to purchase the hardware and software.

“We pay about $3,000 per month, which fits into our budget,” Wied said. “That’s why we didn’t have any trouble with the county’s commissioners.”

Colorado County provides dispatch services for agencies in the cities of Columbus — the county seat — and Weimar, both of which also will be using the hosted service by piggybacking onto Colorado County’s program. According to Bill Livingston, Weimar’s police chief, his department’s involvement was serendipitous. Recently, Weimar was told by the city of San Antonio that it no longer could use the latter’s records management system for driver’s license queries. Apparently, too many agencies were using the system, which was causing problems for San Antonio’s police department.

It has been said that the best thing to do when given lemons is to make lemonade, and that’s just what Weimar did, according to Livingston. Not only are the city’s agencies tapping into a system that provides far greater capability, they are doing so for a lot less money.

“We were using air cards to access San Antonio’s system, which cost from $60 to $70 a month,” Livingston said. “We have about 15 units, each of which had an air card, so we were running up some bills. But we are only being charged $150 per month for five units with the hosted service.” Do the math and Weimar will save between $450 and $600 each month using the hosted service.

There was one more big selling point in favor of the hosted service, Livingston said, which is that no IT staff is needed — an important consideration for any cash-strapped agency.

“We’re cops — we’re not IT techs,” he said. “Once you put in servers and routers, you have to hire someone to run it.”

*Updated 11/4/2010