As part of an ongoing renovation, Frederick County’s 911 emergency call center is trying to get some more seats at the table — and some chairs to accommodate them.
The five-member Frederick County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to give the county Department of Emergency Communications permission to seek a $29,597 grant from a state agency to buy 24 chairs for the center.
The $1,200 chairs are specifically designed for 911 centers, and are used in centers around the state, said Chip Jewell, county director of emergency communications.
The chairs are part of an approximately $20 million renovation of the 911 center, scheduled to be completed in December, that will include new radio equipment, consoles and other items for workers.
The renovation includes possibly adding space for staff from local police departments and some state agencies such as the State Highway Administration, Jewell said. The number of positions at the center will increase from 14 to 24.
Because the center’s chairs are being used around the clock, they have to be heavy-duty and ergonomic, he said.
The lifespan of the chairs is considered to be about four years, he said.
Jewell said the department compared prices and models from various manufacturers before settling on the chairs from Lake Forest, Ill.-based Iron Horse Seating.
The models the department would purchase range in cost from $1,112.93 to $1,236.36 each, which is within guidelines set by the state’s Emergency Number Systems Board of about $1,300 for such items, Jewell said.
The chairs offer adjustable headrests and seatbacks that can angle 21 degrees, an adjustable air lumbar system and a heavy-duty rolling base that can support up to 400 pounds, according to information provided to the county.
Despite their vote to approve the request, the price of the chairs drew a skeptical response from several commissioners.
“All I can say is, they’re just lucky there’s no county money involved,” said Blaine R. Young (R), president of the board of commissioners.
He said he studied the request to make sure the county isn’t required to put up any money to supplement the grant.
The money for the grant comes from fees that Maryland residents pay on their telephone bills each month for 911 service, Young said.
If the board had decided not to approve the grant request to the Emergency Number Systems Board, which is part of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, county residents would still have had to pay the 911 fee as well as the cost for other chairs bought with county money, Young said.
County departments must get permission from the commissioners when applying for grant funds.
Commissioner Billy Shreve (R) said he thinks the cost reflects a sense that the government makes grant money available, and jurisdictions feel as if they have to spend it or it will go to someone else.
Emergency communications officials could probably have gotten what they need for far less than they would be paying with the grant money by looking for used chairs or furniture from companies that have gone out of business, Shreve said.
Jewell said requests for chairs, headsets and other necessary items for 911 centers can be approved directly by the ENSB’s director, and he is confident the grant will be approved.
He said the grant request was written specifically for the chairs they wanted after looking around and examining several options.
The chairs the 911 center is considering are more expensive than the average office chair because they have to withstand such heavy use.
“They’re not your typical office chairs,” he said.