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Increase to phone bills would help 911 funding

April 04, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Proposed state legislation that calls for higher 911 fees charged to telephone bills would generate nearly $300,000 for Washington County's 911 operations, county officials said this week.

County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said Thursday the money from the proposed increase would be helpful to the county as it works on a tight fiscal year 2004 budget.

The proposed legislation would affect the state's and county's 911 service fees, both of which are charged to residents' phone bills.

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If approved, the state 911 service fee would increase from 10 cents to 25 cents per phone bill. It also would allow the commissioners to raise the county fee from 50 cents to up to 75 cents a bill.

That could mean county residents might be paying up to $1 per phone bill for 911 operations. The state and county fees currently total 60 cents per phone bill.

Bardona Woods, assistant 911 communications chief, said an increase would give the county's 911 operations money for additional staff if necessary.

It also would help provide funding for a $1 million communications upgrade that would allow dispatchers to immediately determine the name, number and location of cellular telephone callers who need assistance, Woods said.

The Washington County Department of Emergency Services has applied to the Maryland Emergency Numbers Systems Board for the $1 million.

The state 911 service fee goes to a trust fund administered by the state Emergency Numbers Systems Board. That board pays for major equipment purchases for primary 911 centers throughout the state.

The current county 911 service fee brings in about $600,000 to $700,000 a year. But there's no guarantee the county will receive money from the state fee annually, Woods said.

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