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AAC


GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS


New 9-1-1 Board executive director offers update on reform


volved. C.J. Engle attended meetings, testified in committee, and provided research and expertise on the nuts and bolts of 9-1-1 systems. His leadership among his peers played a big factor in the success the counties had passing the Public Safety Act of 2019. C.J. was in line to be appointed to the newly cre- ated 9-1-1 Board by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, but his life took a turn. He was offered a job by Southwest Airlines. He took the job in Dallas, but the pandemic caused the airlines to suffer. C.J. began to won- der what his future looked like. Te Ar- kansas 9-1-1 Board was looking for a new executive direc- tor, and he applied. “When C. J’s. resume was forwarded to the board, several mem- bers were excited about his interest due to being familiar with his work in the state,” said Greene County Judge Rusty Mc- Millon and 9-1-1 board member. “We were confident that he had the background knowledge of Arkansas’ 9-1-1 struggles and the poise to navigate the challenges in front of us. Having worked with him on 9-1-1 legislation and being familiar with his partnership with my emergency manager, I knew we had the right person for this position.” C.J. and the 9-1-1 board are the partners that will help counties navigate the complex issues that derive from 9-1-1. Let’s hear directly from the new Arkansas 9-1-1 Board execu- tive director:


I


ct 660, Te Public Safety Act of 2019, is the foun- dation for the state, and it is vital that our prelimi- nary work effectively sets the tone for the projects at hand.


A It is an honor to have the opportunity to return home and


get back to work with the 9-1-1 community. Te past two months have been a whirlwind as we have hit the ground run- ning with key projects of the Arkansas 9-1-1 Board. Act 660, Te Public Safety Act of 2019, is the foundation for the state, and it is vital that our preliminary work effectively sets the tone for the projects at hand. Te Arkansas 9-1-1 Board has 12 members that truly care about emergency communications


18


mplementing new laws passed by the legislature can be difficult. However, partners make it a lot easier. Many people were involved in passing the 9-1-1 reform bill in 2019, but one OEM director was especially in-


in Arkansas, and I am appreciative of their trust in me to lead 9-1-1 into the future. I look forward to not only working with the board, but also with all of those within the 9-1- 1 community. Having those existing relationships and developing new ones with leaders in the local 9-1-1 community will provide a broader perspective and benefit to the decisions the board will be responsible for over the next several years. As we have initiated several key responsibilities of the board, there are already sev- eral positive results from Act 660. One of those being the increased funding for 9-1-1. Funding has been a major de- ficiency within the industry for years, but with the increase of wireless, voice over IP, and prepaid charges, we have seen


Josh Curtis


Governmental Affairs Director


a substantial reduction in the amount of local tax dollars that counties and cities are subsidizing for emergency communi- cations. As a matter of fact, we can expect to see nearly $45 million distributed in 2020, up from just over $20 million in 2019. Another positive outcome from Act 660 is the creation of the Arkansas 9-1-1 Board. Tis state level entity with rep- resentatives from across state government, local government, and the public safety sector will allow for further standardiza- tion and advances in 9-1-1 services across Arkansas. As part of Te Public Safety Act of 2019, the board is re-


quired to oversee several developments to deliver the best pub- lic safety communications and services possible to our citizens and first responders. One of those key ventures is to develop a Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) system. With constant improvement and advancements of digital technology, emer- gency services in Arkansas and much of the nation have been left behind. While the public’s expectations continue to rise for a 21st-century emergency response, many of our systems and models are trapped in the 20th century. Our public safety answering points (PSAPs) still utilize legacy 9-1-1 copper line


COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020


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