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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

911 dispatch center in jeopardy

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

With an increase in cell phones and a decrease in landlines, an important operation is in jeopardy.

Two funds support the Clay County 911 dispatch center -- the first is made up of a landline fee of $2.65 per line monthly, and the second is called PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point), which includes the state's distribution of all cellular phone fees.

"Everyone used to have a landline, but now more and more people are getting rid of their landline and just using their cell phones," Auditor Mary Jo Alumbaugh said. "Even with the maximum fee on landlines, we're getting less and less revenue."

The 911 Funds' income has decreased an average of 17 percent every year. At the same time, costs have risen.

In 2008, the revenue for the 911 Fund totaled $336,955. By 2009, the revenue dropped to $310,672. Again, the revenue decreased in 2010 -- this time to $257,559.

For unknown reasons, the revenue increased in 2011 to $309,965.

Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said he did not see an increase in landlines in 2011.

"It's a possibility that there was a restructure of the disbursement of money that year," he said.

Even with the increase of revenue in 2011, the dispatch center normally has a yearly budget of around $350,000, nowhere near the amount of revenue coming in. The 911 funding pays for the monthly service charge to maintain the database that holds landline addresses, the upgrade equipment, the dispatcher's salaries and the mapping program.

"We're fully using the PSAP funds, but it's not enough," Alumbaugh said. "In 2010, it was at an all-time low."

She explained Clay County may have to find ways to fund the 911 operations, however, the General Fund is already strained without the added expense.

"We can't do away with our 911 dispatch center," Alumbaugh said. "It's something the public is entitled to have, and it is something they have come to expect. But the public needs to know there is a problem."

Currently, cellular fees are 50 cents per month for the 911 services. Each county sets its own landline 911 rates. The Indiana Senate is currently looking at Senate Bill 345, which would repeal the fees and instead, impose a uniform $1 monthly fee on all telephone customers. A new Statewide 911 Board would distribute fee revenue to counties for 911 dispatch centers. Each county would be limited to one dispatch center.

"(The Indiana Sheriff's Association's) question is, 'How is this going to be distributed?'" Heaton said. "How will it be tracked? The ISA is watching this bill and testifying to the concerns of how this will work."

The Association of Indiana Counties is also concerned about this issue and how it will affect the counties.

"Are we going to satisfy all 92 counties?" Heaton asked. "No, each county is going to have a different need and idea to an extent. But this bill has some benefits, and it is better than the bills in the past. The matter of the fact is something is going to have to be done. We have to wait and see."



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