The leaders of a southwest Iowa county are pursuing the possibility of outsourcing the county’s 911 emergency communications to a New Jersey-based company.

Mark Wedemeyer, chairman of the Cass County Board of Supervisors, says he’s in contact with IXP Corporation officials about the service options.

Wedemeyer says only five counties in the country and four or five municipalities are utilizing the company’s services. He says he chose to explore the matter because he thinks the county has “the fiduciary responsibility to look into the possibility.”

An official with IXP says too little information was provided by the county and a full study would be needed — at a cost of $12,500. Wedemeyer says the company has a “complete array” of options for its services.

He says it’s possible for the company to own the equipment and a local site. They would also likely hire the current staff. Since this story went public, Wedemeyer says he’s been contacted by another unspecified Iowa county about privatizing its 911 service as well.

The primary goals are to save money and maintain quality and control. Wedemeyer says they expect to increase the quality of service, or “at least keep it as good as it is.” He says local 911 calls would be directed to a local facility, not to New Jersey.

Cass County Recorder Joyce Jensen asked whether it was prudent to explore a company out of state to provide such an important service and that someone in New Jersey might not be aware of “how things in Iowa work.”

“Maybe it would be a little bit more palatable if it were an Iowa company,” Jensen says. “There’s something about going outside of the state to procure an organization and spend that kind of money on it.”

It’s still not clear what costs would be involved with privatizing the service. It’s believed no other Iowa county has gone this route.

By Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic