The Richmond Register

Local News

May 9, 2013

911 calls from cell phones outnumber landline calls 3 to 1

Most funding comes from landline fees

RICHMOND — Although most of its funding comes from a $3.50 monthly fee applied to each landline phone in Madison County, about three-fourth of calls to the county’s unified Emergency 911 system come from cell phones.

The 71,000 cell phones registered in the county outnumber the 22,000 landlines by more than 3 to 1, but each cell phone is charged only 27 cents a month to support the 911 system, E-911 director Wendy Lynch said at a meeting of the three local governments Thursday.

The county expects to realize $957,000 from its 911 landline fee, but only $230,000 the cell phone fee, she said.

As the number of landlines dwindle, even as the volume of calls from cell phones rise, the funding plan is unsustainable, Lynch added.

While the fiscal court, with the support of Richmond and Berea city governments, sets the landline fee, the 911 fee for cell phones is set by state statute. Despite the pleas of local 911 operators, the General Assembly has not moved to put funding for the service on a more realistic basis, Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark said.

Neighboring Garrard County is attempting to fund its 911 service by assessing a fee to utility meters, but the legality of that method is unclear and is being tested in the court of appeals.

If the fiscal court assessed a $4.50 monthly fee on the county’s 41,100 electric meters, it would raise more than $2.5 million annually, according to figures Lynch presented. A $4.50 fee on the 33,750 water meters in the county would yield an estimated $1.8 million.

That was one of the two main issues discussed as the three local governing bodies met for the quarterly meeting at the extension center on Duncannon Lane.

Also discussed was the level of emergency management services, warning sirens, tone-alert radios, etc., the county should plan for after federal funding associated with destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile at the Blue Grass Army Depot ends in about 10 years.

Not discussed was the judge/executive’s move to prevent Berea from appointing George Wyatt to the board of the airport jointly operated by the three local governments.

Berea City Council member Ronnie Terrill had asked that the issue be placed on the meeting’s agenda, but it was not. Terrill also did not attempt to raise the issue.

Asked why after the meeting, Terrill said Berea Mayor Steve Connelly, with whom he is often at odds, had asked him to hold off.

Clark is waiting on an attorney general’s opinion on whether one partner in a city-county airport may veto another partner’s appointments.

After the meeting, Connelly said Clark had “upped the ante” in the controversy by asking the Federal Aviation Administration, which has funded most of the airport’s infrastructure, to investigate whether Wyatt and former airport board chair Eddie Pullins had violated laws or regulations when they moved in late December 2010 to contract services that kept the airport operating after the previous operator left on short notice at the end of that year.

Clark was not in his office Thursday afternoon, and a voice message left on his cell phone was not returned.

Connelly said Wyatt attended Tuesday's monthly airport board meeting, but was allowed to participate only as a citizen, not as a board member.

Bill Robinson can be reached at editor@richmondregister.com or 624-6690.

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