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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • PCESB considers study breaking down 911 calls

  • A Phelps County Emergency Services Board (PCESB) member stated Sept. 6 during the board's meeting that a study breaking down the cost per an emergency 911 call or something similar would be a benefit to state legislators.
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  • A Phelps County Emergency Services Board (PCESB) member stated Sept. 6 during the board's meeting that a study breaking down the cost per an emergency 911 call or something similar would be a benefit to state legislators.
    Buz Harvey, treasurer for the board, said a breakdown of the cost per 911 call could be taken to the Missouri Legislature to show what it costs in a typical county like Phelps County.
    “Here's what it costs in Phelps County on a per capita basis or per call basis”, he said, noting that the data could be compared and applied to the populations served by 911 in other counties.
    PCESB members along with emergency services boards from other central Missouri counties met with State Rep. Ben Harris, who represents the 110th District, last month at the Meramec Regional Planning Commission office in St. James.
    Harris said collecting any type of tax on mobile devices to fund 911 services in Missouri is going to be a hard battle to overcome in the Legislature, noting many legislators refuse to pass any tax increases.
    For years, a surcharge on landline telephones has paid for operations at emergency 911 call centers in several Missouri counties. However, as more people are using cellphones instead of landlines, those funds have been diminishing.
    In Phelps County, a one-quarter of 1 percent sales tax is in place to fund emergency services, which replaced the 911 tariff on local telephone service.
    One idea discussed among emergency services board members is to have a 1 percent sales tax across the state with three-quarters of it going back to each county to fund 911 services and the remainder would be put in a state pot for counties that are not generating enough revenue so they could apply for grants for training.
    Harvey said his opinion is that 1 percent sounds like a lot, suggesting a three-fourths percent with one-fourth going to the state pot to help counties without 911 calls centers and one-half percent coming back to counties that do have 911 call centers like Phelps County. However, he noted that he didn't do any type of fiscal analysis of the percentages and how much revenue it would raise.
    “Two-thirds of the counties in the state of Missouri don't have the kind of 911 system we have in Phelps County,” Harvey said. “We don't have any problem with the state passing … let's say a half-cent or three-quarters cent or 1 percent sales tax to allow counties that don't have the kind of resouces that we do to get up to speed it.”
    He said residents of Phelps County will at some time or another drive through those counties that don't have 911 call centers, so “it's not entirely without our self interest.”
    Harvey said, “We'll get it behind it 100 percent and however you work it, make sure you don't punish us for having shown some initiative within our own jurisdiction.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Missouri is the only state that hasn't passed some form of wireless 911 funding legislation.
    In Missouri, there are about 18 counties that do not have 911 public safety answering points (PSAPs), according to the Missouri 911 Directors Association and the website save911.org.
    Lisa Schlottach, president of the Missouri 911 Directors Association, said, “The 911 call is transformed into a seven-digit number” in those 18 counties without PSAPs noting the calls are usually answered by a dispatcher at a sheriff's department on a regular telephone line.
    The counties without 911 call centers are Mercer, Schuyler, Scotland, Clark, Knox, Bates, St. Clair, Cedar, Hickory, Dent, Shannon, Oregon, Ripley, Carter, Wayne, Bollinger, Douglas and Ozark counties.
    There are a few counties that do not have a PSAP located within their boundaries but are served by neighboring counties.
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