When most Iowans call 911, they talk to a dispatcher somewhere in a nearby law enforcement center, usually within the county. In southwest Iowa, Cass County leaders are considering hiring a New Jersey firm to answer its emergency calls.

Board of Supervisors chairman Mark Wedemeyer says it’s something they’re researching, instead of spending big money to remodel the county courthouse. “People suggested to me that this was going on in some places so I thought I should do some research and they said, ‘Yeah, you really should explore all the options,'” Wedemeyer says. If the change is made, it’s believed Cass County would be the first municipality in Iowa to have its 9-1-1 services handled out of state.

Wedemeyer says he’s been in contact with I-X-P Corporation, based in Cranbury, New Jersey. “We wouldn’t do it unless it was financially better for the county,” Wedemeyer says. The county’s public safety center has outgrown its space and various options are being considered, including expanding at the courthouse in Atlantic or moving to a new location.

Wedemeyer says, “We heard about this at some of our meetings and thought we’d better at least look into it before we spent a lot of money.” He said one community that hired I-X-P was expecting to save more than a million-dollars over five years by privatizing the service. Critics fear far-away dispatchers might not have the knowledge of the county needed to send the appropriate emergency crews to various rural and urban locations.

(Reporting by Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)