Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 25, 2014

Communication costs

E911 board to cut equipment repairs
By Andy Hallman | Nov 27, 2012

In an effort to trim its budget, the Washington County E911 Board will not pay for the maintenance of communication equipment used by fire departments and first responders.
Communications Supervisor Cara Sorrells said the board could be short tens of thousands of dollars next year when its $1.50 monthly landline surcharge drops to $1. Sorrells said the amount of the shortfall depends on negotiations with cell phone providers, but it could be in the neighborhood of $30,000.
The E911 board’s budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year is $480,000.
The board agreed to refrain from paying for any maintenance costs on any communication equipment such as pagers, mobiles and portables. Mobiles are communication devices in vehicles, while portables are worn on the person’s body. The board will not pay for the maintenance on these devices for at least one year.
The responsibility for paying for maintenance will fall to the individual fire departments and first responders. Sorrells expects this cost-saving measure will save E911 about $6,000 a year.
Sorrells said the Washington Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff’s Department will probably be unaffected by the board’s decision, since both law enforcement agencies have received new radio equipment in the past few years which are unlikely to need repairs.
The 50-cent drop in the landline surcharge means that revenue stream will be down $50,000 from a year ago. However, other revenue streams should generate more money next year to partially offset the decline in the landline surcharge.
Sorrells informed the board Monday that the state has reworked the formula that determines how much money each county receives for emergency communications. Under the new formula that was just implemented this past quarter, Washington County receives almost $18,000 a quarter, up from its normal quarterly allotment of $10,000.
One reason the county is receiving more money is that cellular phone companies are no longer reimbursed for delivering 911 calls. That money now goes to the counties.
Sorrells is a member of a communications task force that was created to study the state’s 911 phone charges. The task force is considering charging cell phone providers $1 per customer per month, the same as landline providers. That would increase Washington County’s revenue by about $20,000.
However, Sorrells said the cell phone companies are not happy about the prospect of paying a $1 surcharge considering they’re no longer reimbursed for delivering 911 calls. She said the task force might give the cell phones companies their reimbursement back in order to get them to agree to the $1 surcharge.
In other matters, the communications commission talked about sending a letter to the 60 customers of All Secure in the county. All Secure is a security firm that installs alarms in homes, businesses, schools and other locations. It relies on a receiver at the dispatch center to record the alarm and its origin.
All Secure has informed the commission that it needs to purchase a new receiver, which would cost about $3,500. Members of the commission have objected to providing a service that could be done by a private company.
The letter to the 60 customers of All Secure in the county asks them if they would like to continue receiving the service through the dispatch center or a third party dispatcher. If so, the dispatch center would charge each customer a fee to use the receiver, which it is not currently charging.
The commission will take responses through Dec. 28. It will decide what will happen with the receiver at its next meeting on Monday, Jan. 28.     
The E911 board also talked about sending a letter to the company that cut down the county’s street signs along Highway 218 in 2011. The county and state shared a single pole for road signs, but the company that replaced the state’s signs was unaware of this and tossed the county’s signs into the ditch when it replaced the state’s signs.
The letter states that the county had to pay about $3,200 to replace the signs. The Department of Transportation reimbursed the county about $1,500. The county requests that the company, Collins and Hermann, pay for the remainder.
Washington County Attorney Larry Brock was not present at Monday’s meeting but informed Sorrells that he was about ready to send a letter to the company. Commission member Paula Walton said she was disappointed it has taken so long to get a letter sent to the company. She said that this very issue was being discussed when she joined the commission a year ago.

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