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Muskego Hopes to Put Cell 911 Matters in Their Own Hands

Cell 911 debate pitting the city against Waukesha County will be a matter of ordinances, and Waukesha may follow Muskego's lead.

The long battle between the City of Muskego and Waukesha County over who should handle cellular 911 calls made within Muskego took a new step, as the city  look to amend their ordinance to give them a better foothold in requiring cell carriers to reroute calls.

Police Chief Paul Geiszler told the Public Safety Committee Wednesday night that an earlier meeting with County Executive Dan Vrakas and Muskego Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti was fruitless in moving negotiations. Vrakas told them at that meeting that, on the advice of legal counsel, he could not talk about the issue.

Muskego has the equipment and trained personnel to take on its own 911 calls made from within the city on cell phones. These calls are currently routed first to Waukesha County's Communications Center (WCCC) before being sent to local law enforcement, a practice the city says wastes valuable time when lives are in danger.

The County has maintained that it would create further disruption and delay in service as not all calls necessarily would come from within Muskego because the technology is not "an exact science." The impasse led to a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by the city, but the.

"I told him (Vrakas) that we had a deadline, but didn't tell him that we were looking at an ordinance change that would give the city the right of first refusal to anyone that has a cell tower within the city because the state Public Service Commission has no control over it, and the FCC has no control over it," Geiszler said. "The city attorney has indicated that in order for us to go through with a lawsuit we have to at least have something to file with the county."

In other words if no one will take control over the jurisdiction of the cell towers and their routes, the city will through the ordinance change. The right of first refusal puts the authority with the city when dealing with cell carriers like AT&T and Verizon, and would require that carriers seek the city's permission first before allowing anyone else access to the cellular routes.

Geiszler also said that the to keep their regular dispatch within the city, and was told by their police chief, Russel Jack, that a similar discussion on an ordinance change could also be discussed as early as Thursday during their Common Council meeting.

The amendment to the ordinance will be proposed at the Common Council meeting on June 12, according to Chiaverotti, and the city is hoping to have it receive a final approval on July 10.

"(The county) will not take the cell calls that we feel we are entitled to take, Geiszler said.

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