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Cell phones thwart funding for 9-1-1 calls

Bob McNeill, director of the Washington County Emergency Communications District, made an appeal during last month’s Washington County Budget Committee meeting for full funding of the district’s request for fiscal 2012-2013.
The Washington County Commission already approved an appropriation of $645,233, but McNeill requested an amendment of $36,000 to meet the amount requested.
According to McNeill, the district’s wire line and wireless revenue rates are at the maximum allowed by the state, but operating revenue continues to decline as more people take advantage of cellular phones.
Expenses, on the other hand, continue to rise. The majority of costs are related to dispatch, with 577 calls received by 9-1-1 during the 24-hour period prior to the Budget Committee meeting.
“We’re also in a really old building and we’re having a lot of problems,” McNeill said. “We have some surplus dollars, but we would need more for a new building.”
Ideally, the new location would offer 10,000 square feet for operation and 25 parking spaces, he added. Eldridge said capital needs must be separated from the funding required for day-to-day operations.
“If you take away the capital projects, your revenue is meeting your expenses,” Eldridge said. “We need to look at what it will take to fund 9-1-1, which is a partnership between the city and county.”
Commissioner Mitch Meredith said he would like to see a historical analysis of the 9-1-1 revenue and expenses.
“It would help me justify and rationalize the need for an increase,” he said.
McNeill will provide the analysis during the next meeting.
In a later interview, Eldridge said he does not think it is necessary to allocate more money to EMS mid-year when the operation is breaking even. “If they have a shortfall, they have fund balance to cover it, and we can evaluate it for next year,” he said.