FRANKFORT, Ky. — Directors from Greenup County 911 and Boyd County 911 offices met with Senator Robin Webb D-Grayson on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing issue of funding needs for 911 offices.
Buford Hurley II, director of Greenup 911, said the meeting with Webb and other Senators and Representatives is customary.
“We have two Kentucky organizations that represent 911, the Kentucky Emergency Number Association, then you have APCO, which is the Kentucky Chapter of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials,” Buford said. “We simply call it KENA APCO, and we have our January meeting, our quarterly meeting which is always in January at the Capital where we meet with our Senators and Representatives to talk with them 911 issues in Kentucky.”
Funding was the top priority of discussion for the meeting with Webb.
“Obviously this year and the last couple of years has been the funding challenges that we have across the state, and actually it’s across the nation,” Hurley said. “It is not just us where landlines are going to the wayside and with that going to the wayside obviously the funding is going to the wayside from landline loss. So with Webb, were just explaining to her a Bill that we want to get pushed through to increase the charge, or surcharge if you will on cell phones, which currently stands at 70 cents a month in Kentucky, and that ‘s for post paid.”
Incorporating texting to 911 to the Greenup and Boyd County 911 services is a hot topic, according to Hurley.
“One of the next big things that we need to take care of in 911 that is coming kind of quickly is texting to 911,” Hurley said. “It costs money to do those things. Along with that, the regular 911 budget Kentucky is suffering because of the loss of landlines.
Hurley believes the State Legislature does understand the dilemma, but do not want to be responsible for raising the surcharge on cellular phones.
“They understand that, but I think they want to help us in some way, but they’re just not big right now on increasing any time of surcharges, or taxes in any form or fashion, not just with us,” Hurley said. “I understand that for the most part, but we just have to keep working with them, and educating our Representatives and our Senators on why it needs to be done.”
The Bill proposing an increase in the 911 surcharge has not been introduced according to Hurley.
“I don’t know how it is going to go in the session, the Bill hasn’t been introduced yet. It will probably be introduced next week, and if it gets out the Committee then it would go to a vote,” Hurley said. “I think for the last couple of years it hasn’t gotten out the Committee. It has been about a three-year battle on trying to get that raised to offset the costs. It’s not the life saver of 911 by no means, it’s just to help offset some of the costs to continue to grow every year.”
Sandy Ott, director of Boyd County 911, said they have been discussing the raising of surcharges for many years.
“Primarily we spoke to her (Webb) about the coming Bill that is going to be introduced in reference to the cell phones, telephone surcharge for 911,”Ott said. “We’ve had this discussion many times in the past. We would like to see the amount changed. The original law was put into place in 1998, and it has not changed since. My point of view is that there are not many Bills out there that any of us have, that we’ve had for that number of years that have not changed, or gone up.
Ott said the majority of the incoming calls to Boyd County 911 are from cellular phones.
“I’d say that 70 percent of the calls that we get now are on wireless phones, not on landline phones, and we expressed to Senator Webb the difference of people from landlines to wireless has greatly decreased the amount of money that we have to support 911, to upgrade our technology to meet the public’s expectations,” Ott said.
The reality is that upgrading of technology requires monetary investment.
“For instance, text to 911, anything that involves the next generation is going to take a change in technology and equipment to be able to do what the public expects. Right now, the money is just not there, and we have been asking the Legislature for several years now to remedy that problem.
Ott’s belief is that concern is there, but agrees with Hurley that no one wants to be responsible for raising the surcharge.
“I believe that she is concerned, and that she understands that something needs to be done, but she’s not real confident that they will be able to get any type of raise in the rate approved to get it through the House or the Senate,” Ott said. “It is just because nobody wants to raise a rate, nobody wants to raise a fee, or tax, or however you want to look at it, no one wants to be responsible for raising that, even if it is from 70 cents to one dollar a month which is what we have asked for, for the last several years just based on the consumer price index change. “
The goal is to continue to keep trying to see that the Bill successfully goes through.
“We spoke to Webb, but we also spoke with House Representative Martha Jane King who has been the sponsor of our Bill for the last several years, and she is not real confident that it is going to go through, but we’re going to keep trying because it is important,” Ott said.
The Daily Times attempted to speak with Senator Robin Webb, who was unavailable for an interview at the time the news story was written.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.