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The feed of a lone emergency radio and occasional reporter questions were the only steady sounds in Lincoln's remodeled and retooled 911 Communications Center in the basement of police headquarters in the County-City Building on Monday.

"This will be as quiet as it will ever be," Julie Righter Dove, the center's communications coordinator, told reporters taking a tour.

Next week, dispatchers, who have been taking 911 calls and coordinating police and fire calls from a fire station basement, will move into the renovated space and begin their noisy work at 18 new, customizable bays, she said.

The 911 Center's renovation marks the most visible aspect of the $12 million replacement of the city's aging emergency radio system, Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady said.

911 Center officials had eyed a remodel for 10 years before the city sought a temporary quarter-cent hike to the sales tax to improve the radio system and build fire stations and a new police substation.

Voters in 2015 approved the three-year increase to the city sales tax, and so far it has raked in more than $37 million.

The three new fire stations and one joint police/fire station included in the public safety improvements bond issue should be built over the next two years, Casady has said. The quarter-cent sales tax will end Sept. 30, Mayor Chris Beutler said in February.

Inside the 911 Center, the phone system and software have been upgraded to coincide with the new digital Motorola radio system that will be put in service later this year.

The software will be compatible with coming statewide changes to the 911 system allowing for more accurate locations for cellphone callers and texting to 911, Righter Dove said.

Those improvements were paid for through money the city receives from the Nebraska Public Service Commission and re-appropriated funds, she said.

Staff will sit at more ergonomic bays, where they can raise and lower their desks and monitors, change lighting and adjust their heating or cooling, she said.

The radio system will be moved back from the back-up center, Casady said, and later this summer technicians will begin installing the 2,700 new digital radios as the old system is phased out.

"More than anything we did this so we could prepare for that," he said.

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Riley Johnson reports on breaking news and public safety issues in Lincoln and southeast Nebraska.

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