Upshur sets hearing on 911 fee increase

A hearing to discuss an ordinance that would increase 911 fees on landline telephones in Upshur County will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday in the county commission chambers.

The proposal would raise the monthly fee to $4.50 per line for household customers and to $6.50 per line for business and Centrex customers. There would be no exemptions to the increase, as it is considered a fee and not a tax. The current fee is $2.65 for all users.

County Administrator Willie Parker said there has been a nearly 30 percent reduction in landlines in the county, which has resulted in less revenue to run the mandated E-911 service. The current fee brings in about $350,000, while funding from cellular phone fees results in another $500,000. The rate for the cellular phone fees, however, is controlled by the state.

The proposal, if implemented, would bring in an additional $225,000 and would bring the 911 Center’s budget up to about $1 million annually.

“That covers current expenses, so there is not much room for increases,” Parker said, “unless we are successful in reducing costs.”

Parker said the advent of new technologies has allowed for more and more people to abandon the traditional landline phone in their homes in favor of the cellular phones.

The last increase to the fee came in July 2005, and the county is mandated by state law to provide 911 services. New dispatching requirements on the horizon will force employees to undergo additional training.

The biggest expense for the 911 Center is personnel costs, Parker said. The revenue generated from the user fees must cover that cost, along with the costs of training employees, equipping the center and the costs of converting rural routes to city-style addresses.

Parker said that when the 911 Center first went into operation around 1988, the center typically had only one dispatcher on duty. The center now usually has three dispatchers on duty per shift.