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E911 surcharge increase on ballot

By Staff | Oct 10, 2008

This question will be put to the voters on the Tuesday, Nov. 4, General Election Ballot-“Shall the E911 Service Board be allowed to increase the current per month/line service charge of $1 to $2 for a maximum of 24 months to help fund the E911 system upgrade that serves Emmet County?”

Q.: Why is it needed?

A.: Our current E911 equipment has been serving Emmet County for approximately 15 years. Technology has changed and our equipment has not. These changes are needed to meet current and future communication mandates. The cost of upkeep, replacement cost, and even the availability of parts is a major issue. It is not a responsible way to use our current surcharge funds to keep repairing outdated and failing equipment.

Q.: How will these funds be collected?

A.: Each month on your current phone bill you are assessed $1 per line for supporting your countywide E911 Emergency phone service. If the question is approved by a simple majority of the voters it will automatically start being assessed within 100 days of the vote. It should be noted this is a surcharge and not a new tax. Your E911 Emergency phone system is paid for by the users of the system. This amounts to an additional $24 over two years per line.

Q.: What about cellular phone users?

If you have a cell phone currently, you are assessed 65 cents per month per cell phone for access to the E911 Emergency phone system in Emmet County. Those funds go to the State of Iowa to fund the state E911 program and a percentage of the 65 cents is paid back to the citizens of Emmet County each year. Also, there are grants made available from the Cellular Phone Surcharge fund. Emmet County was awarded a $50,000 grant recently in an effort to kick off our fund drive in upgrading our E911 and Communication system.

Q.: What other funding sources are we using?

A.: We are very fortunate to have community leaders who are willing to help. Recently, the City of Estherville, Emmet County Board of Supervisors and the Emmet County E911 Service Board, teamed up and entered into an agreement to help support this project. Each partner in the project will pay for a percentage of the upgrade over a five-year period.

Q.: How much money are we talking about?

A total system upgrade, like what is needed at our Communications Center is going to cost approximately $500,000. The additional $1 per month will generate about $100,000 to help fund the upgrade project. We are continuing to seek out other grants and funding sources, but these are very competitive. We are on our third attempt at some of the grant funds and hope we are successful to help relieve some of the financial burden on the citizens of Emmet County.

Q.: Does this increase go on forever?

A.: No. By law the surcharge increase can only be for a maximum of 24 months. After the deadline the surcharge will automatically go back to the $1 surcharge you are contributing now to the E911 Emergency Phone System. The $1 additional surcharge will not happen unless a simple majority is approved by the voters of Emmet County.

Q.: What’s it going to cost me?

All telephone users are currently paying $1 per month per phone line at your home or business or $12 per year. The E911 Service Board is asking for an additional $1 per month for two years, $24 over two years. Everyone who uses a telephone whether you own your home or rent will help pay for the improvements. If the vote fails the E911 Board will rely on tax dollars from property and land owners to make the necessary improvements.

Q.: What improvements will be made with these funds?

Currently there are areas in Emmet County that cannot receive a clear radio signal.

Why is that important?

This could have a direct impact on the safety of our law enforcement, firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians. If they cannot call for help when needed, call for additional firefighting equipment or medical advice, or coordinate a disaster response it could mean an unsafe condition for our first responders. With the communications upgrade we will improve our dispatcher work stations and place necessary repeaters throughout Emmet County to greatly improve our radio communications capabilities. Upgrading our E911 system will vastly improve the working conditions for the dispatchers; update our equipment to enable us to track E911 calls more accurately to aid in reducing response time for the responders. That means saving lives and lessening the impact from injuries. The funds will be used to update computers and equipment for the deaf and hard of hearing so they, too, can call E911 in time of emergency.

Q.: Who benefits from these improvements?

We all do. If you live, work, or play in Emmet County you will benefit from this funding request. If you have ever had to call 911 you know how important it is and how special all the first responders are. Thank you for taking the time to be informed on the 911 surcharge increase. Please help to achieve the simple majority required. If you have any questions please call Terry Reekers, Emmet County Emergency Management/E911 Coordinator at 712-362-5702.