The calls come in every day, heard on communications receivers scattered throughout the county. “Teenaged male having an epileptic seizure,” “woman needs assistance—she’s fallen and is immobile,” “smoke pouring from house basement,” and on and on. It’s just a normal day at Central Dispatch, here in Rolla. According to first responders, on any given day, fast and efficient communication helps save lives by coordinating efforts between public safety departments in all of Phelps County, resulting in safer communities.  County residents can thank the foresight of Phelps County voters back in 2009. That’s when a one-quarter cent sales tax was passed to fund a county-wide enhanced 911 system and established the Phelps County Emergency Services Board (PCESB) to oversee the fund.
It is the board that lends transparency, creates citizen trust and makes responsible use of that collected sales tax money according to PCESB Board Chairwoman Paula Volkmer, who replaced Paul Rueff. Founding board member Rueff recently stepped down and was honored by the county commissioners  for his public safety service. He says he’s leaving the board in good hands.
Volkmer is well-suited to take on the voluntary job of chairman, having spent 35 years with the Rolla Police Department as a communications dispatcher, eventually becoming the supervisor.

She says PCESB has a contract with the City of Rolla. The enhanced 911 operations (located within the Rolla Police Department) are actually run by the city, so any monies spent on equipment, maintenance and salaries are paid by the city and reimbursed by PCESB through the quarter-cent sales tax funds. Volkmer said it is a relationship that works well and allows both the board and the city to do what they do best.

PCESB currently has seven voluntary board members that have been approved by Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp, District 1 Commissioner Gary Hicks and District 2 Commissioner Larry Stratman, for four-year terms:
Paula  Volkmer - chairwoman
Randy Barr (D-2)
Nicholas Chlysta (D-2)
Buz Harvey (D1)
Ralph Hess (D1)
Tom Manion (D1)
Steve Zap (D2)

The December open board meeting gives Phelps County residents an idea of where the board stands today, financially.
1. In November: PCESB began began November with cash on hand of $1,057,945.88 and ended November with $1,141,447.58 on hand. Total tax revenue in November was $83,455.59 plus $46.11 accrued in interest with no expenses for the month.

2. Income summary: The November year-to-date (YTD) income statement (cash basis) shows revenues of $1,304,077.43 less $1,203,332.62 operating expenses for a YTD operating gain of $100,744.81. Capital expenditures YTD are $26,799.28 with a resulting positive net cash flow of $73,945.53 through 11/30/17.

3. Sales tax report: Sales tax revenue for November was $83,501.70 for a YTD total of $1,264,164.02 or 1.1 percent ahead of the prior three YTD average. Sales tax revenue of $139,971.30 was received on 12/7/17 making the full year total $1,404,135.02, or 1.8 percent ahead of the 3-year moving average and 3.8 percent below budgeted revenue.

Buz Harvey, who serves on the finance committee, said in his report to the board, “I have revised the 2018 revenue budget downward by $47,000 to reflect this flattening of the sales tax revenue. Depending on the effect of Rolla West when it comes online, I will review those projections again.”

What taxpayers are getting for the money
The success of an enhanced 911 operation is all about efficiency according to Chairwoman Volkmer. Where time is always the driver of any emergency, mobilizing public safety departments across the county as quickly as possible is the goal.
“Your calls all go to one place,” explains Volkmer. “Now, you have three dispatchers sitting in the same room together— a county dispatcher, a city dispatcher and a fire/ambulance dispatcher, that not only communicate to Doolittle, St. James, Edgar Springs, Duke and Rolla, but also among themselves.”
If something happens in the city and it moves into the county, this [county] dispatcher can talk to the city dispatcher—in the same room. It’s the benefit of interoperability.”
Interoperability in this sense means how effective groups work together, but it is also the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information. This is one future expenditure the PCESB is looking at.  
“It’s called computer-aided dispatch,” Volkmer said. “Currently, the software keeps track of the number a times a policeman has been there (at a particular address), it keeps track of the times the ambulance has been there. She paints a picture of artificial intelligence getting more sophisticated.
“Our system does that, but were looking at a system that does more,” she added. “It’s more information gathering and maintaining. You build it so it knows all your roads and businesses. Therefore, your dispatcher doesn’t have to know every address.”
Volkmer said they have just upgraded the radio, phones and recording equipment that records all 911 calls.