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GA: 9-1-1 Funding Outpaced by Technology

     

Thursday, December 20, 2012  Telecommunications technology has progressed so far and so fast that things we consider commonplace today would have been all but unimaginable 35 years ago.Unfortunately for Columbus and other Georgia municipalities, 35 years ago is when the law governing how cities fund their emergency call centers was adopted. Not only has the system not kept up with the digital revolution, but it also hasn't kept up with user trends and decreasing revenues.

Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed a state panel to make recommendations, and one of its 11 members will be Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. That's good news for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the cost of Columbus' 911 system in FY 2012 was $3.6 million, about $900,000 of which had to come from somewhere other than the outdated fee structure.

The 1977 law set a maximum fee of $1.50 monthly per home telephone line to fund 911 centers. The problem is that many people are abandoning land lines in favor of cell phones. Also, because more people now have cell phones with them all the time, it's easier to call 911 to report an emergency. Less money for more 911 calls doesn't make for sustainable math.

Even though Columbus also collects $1 a month for cell phone service, Tomlinson said, the decreasing use of land lines is still causing a deficit: "We have seen a 10 percent drop last year and the year before," Tomlinson said.

Good luck to the mayor and the rest of the governor's commission in finding fair and sufficient ways to fill this budget hole. A 911 call center is literally a life-saving service, but it still has to be paid for.

Then again, we've been saying the same thing about garbage collection for years.

First, do no harm

Law enforcement officers put their lives at risk every day to protect public safety. Unfortunately, an alarmingly high rate of crashes involving police and other emergency vehicles in Georgia in recent years has created something of a hazard to, rather than an enhancement of, public safety.

The Brunswick News reported last week that officers of the Georgia State Patrol will be required to take an annual four-hour emergency driving course beginning next week. Other law enforcement agencies around the state are doing likewise.

Many in this area will remember the appalling situation in Albany, where a police officer was terminated after a string of on-duty crashes that involved six patrol vehicles, 11 injuries and two fatalities.

No doubt a majority of the problem rests with a small minority of drivers, as is the case with more common highway hazards. But the high-stress nature of police and other emergency vehicle operation demands special skills that need to be tested and refined regularly.


Read more here: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2012/11/19/2283084/911-funding-law-lags-behind-pace.html#storylink=cpy


 


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