Ascension Parish gets state grant to pay for new 911 call center equipment _lowres

Advocate photo by Ellen Couvillion -- This building at 13192 Airline Highway in Gonzales, next to facilities for a local fire protection district and the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, will be a new 911 center next year, thanks to a state grant to the sheriff's office.

With a $250,000 state grant, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office will update its emergency dispatch equipment, linking it to all of the state’s emergency radio systems, in a 911 call center to be built next year on Airline Highway

The parish’s proximity to the Gulf Coast was a major reason it received this grant, said Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning. “This is a grant that deals strictly with technology,” he said.

The monies for the grant, Browning said, come from the Fire Marshal Fund, which is funded through an insurance premium tax. “We look at areas that really need an upgrade. Ascension Parish is on the periphery of the Gulf Coast” region and, when Hurricane Katrina struck, was one of the largest areas involved in hurricane response, he said.

The parish’s 911 dispatch center, in the parish courthouse annex on Irma Boulevard in Gonzales, has seven computerized consoles where dispatchers work. The new center will have 10 consoles with a larger work space at each, as well as room for growth, Sheriff Jeff Wiley said in a news release.

The new 911 center will be built on 2.2 acres at the former All-Star Ford site on Airline Highway in Gonzales. The Sheriff’s Office purchased the site from the Ascension Parish government for $700,500 in February 2014.

The old car dealership site, which sits on about 15 acres, is owned by the parish and serves as the headquarters for the parish Fire Protection District No. 1.

The Sheriff’s Office has kept its fleet maintenance, evidence buildings and other departments on its two acres. The new center will go up where a small, separate building now stands on the property.

The Sheriff’s Office plans to break ground on the new call center in the first quarter of 2016 and has a year-and-a-half to spend the $250,000 grant. The old dispatch center will then be used as a backup during emergencies.

State Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, who also assisted with the grant process, said, “This touches everyone in Ascension Parish.”

Wiley added: “Ascension Parish is growing and it is vital that we keep up with new technology that will improve the way our communications center works.”