911 board denies director’s plan to increase revenue

Published 5:44 pm Friday, August 10, 2012

Chilton County’s 911 Board denied Director Dan Wright’s proposed funding plan at a meeting Thursday.

Wright told the board that the department faces an $84,000 shortage in the next fiscal year, if 911 plans to keep its service at the current level. Wright’s proposal would make up the difference with increased charges for police and fire departments it serves.

The board denied the request by a 5-2 vote. Jemison Police Chief Shane Fulmer and Thorsby Councilmember Tara Jewell voted in favor of the proposal.

911 receives most of its funding through a tax on land telephone lines. $2.91 of every home phone bill goes to 911, while $5.07 of a bill for a business line is collected by 911.

But as more people use cellular phones to replace land lines, 911 finds its resources dwindling.

Chilton County 911 collects less than a penny on every cell phone in service.

Wright had already asked the board to approve increasing the phone surcharges to the maximum amount allowed under state law. The board did so, and the charges took effect on Dec. 1, 2011.

Even with the increase, Wright said his department’s revenue has dropped an average of $1,000 a month since Dec. 2011.

“I cautioned them at that point that it was a Band-Aid,” Wright said. “We’ve continued to lose revenue.”

Wright recently created a position for a fourth dispatcher to work during 911’s peak hours, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. five days a week. According to an analysis performed by Wright and John Ellison 911 Consulting LLC, four dispatchers at a time is the minimum needed by the department.

Chilton County 911 usually has three dispatchers on the clock, and there are two dispatchers from 2-6 a.m., the slowest time of the day. Based on the analysis of the department’s call volume, three dispatchers at a time is a “critical” staffing level, and two dispatchers at a time is a “crisis” staffing level.