The people who make the Menominee County E-911 system function, received an early Christmas present, but it wasn’t an easy plea on their wish list. Actually, the gift of a new radio console, which gives the system a huge technological upgrade, was for all of the folks who reside in Menominee County and the many people who visit and work there.

Brian Barrette, a former police officer who now directs the E-911 system, went before the Menominee County Board of Commissioners more than a year ago to make his case for a new radio console. Some county commissioners dragged their feet on the request, using the old standby excuse about budget restraint. There was even a suggestion to have Menominee County hook up with another system outside of the county.

But Barrette, knowing a little more than commissioners when it comes to responding to emergencies, was persistent and finally convinced the board something had to be done because the aged system was becoming a public safety concern and he was at the helm of the system. He stressed that if the 22-year-old outdated equipment broke down, it would have prevented the E-911 department from serving the community.

We can only imagine the uproar from the public had that happened and the finger-pointing that would have followed. Quite frankly, we don’t know any other public service that gets more attention in the community that the E-911 system.

Barrette said crews began installing the new system in September. A temporary operating center was set up in a former training room utilized by the police department. The temporary dispatch center ensured county residents that they were never without 911 services. The center was also used to help train 911 operators on the new system.

During the installation period, the temporary dispatch center never shut down and provided citizens with service on a 24/7 basis. As Barrette put it, “We never skipped a bear in terms of our service.”

According to the E-911 director, the new console has a modern touch screen, with all of the information in one place. He noted the new system operates much like any computer or piece of modern technology and proved to be a smooth transition for the operators.

Despite the frustration at the outset of the pleas for a new console, Barrette lauded the county board for providing the funds for an upgrade. Normally, the E-911 program is funded by a surcharge tacked onto the phone bill of Menominee County residents. Barrette pointed out that every person who has a phone or cell phone in Menominee County pays for the 911 service. 

We applaud Mr. Barrette and his supporters for their persistence in lobbying for the technology to upgrade the E-911 service. People with decision-making authority need to realize that equipment that serves the public 24/7 for 22 years either breaks down or becomes outdated over time.