By Ray King

Members of the MECA (Metropolitan Emergency Communications Association) board voted Thursday to purchase a new computer aided dispatch system to replace the system which was last upgraded in 2007.

The board is made up of the Jefferson County Judge and Sheriff, the Mayor of Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff Fire and Police Chief, a representative of the 911 Administrative Board and the coordinator of the Office of Emergency Management.

Karen Blevins, who is the OEM coordinator, explained why the current system needs to be upgraded.

so end telephone system)The new system will cost $364,000 and MECA will be charged an estimated maintenance fee of just under $33.000 after the first year. The system will also be enhanced and upgraded on a regular basis as a part of the annual maintenance.

Blevins was asked how the system will work and said;

MECA is funded by fees collected on landline and cellular telephone bills, and user agencies such as the police and fire departments are billed based on their usage. Blevins said the state legislature last year changed the amount collected on cellular calls from 65-cents to $1.30. She said the extra money that fee generated will be used to help cover the costs of the new system. Those extra funds will also allow for a reduction in the amount the cities and county are billed annually.