To make needed updates and function efficiently at Boyle County’s 911 center, its funding sources will have to be revisited, officials say.
The center, located near the water tower on South Fourth Street, handles about 100 calls in an eight-hour shift for both emergency and non-emergency situations.
Director Robin Parks said the service calls continuously are rising as technology changes, an issue all communication stations are facing.
“Funding for 911 stations nationwide has become an issue,” Parks said, adding that cell phone technology is a major factor.
The center receives funding from the cities of Danville, Junction City and Perryville, as well as from Boyle County and the Boyle County Fire Department.
In addition to those contributions, the state disburses funding to 911 centers from fees on phone service.
“911 centers are funded from a state-shared source of funding,” said Danville City Manager Ron Scott. “That being traditionally a tax on landlines that individuals have for monthly phone service. There’s also a state tax on your cellular phones.”
Scott believes the landline tax in Boyle County has been about 50 cents a month since the 1980s. Cell phones are taxed at about 70 cents a month.
Boyle County’s 911 center receives about $90,000 from the state toward its budget of $686,225.
The problem is the revenue received from fees is going down as landline phones become less popular.
“They are becoming extinct almost,” Parks said.
On other hand, she said, 911 technology keeps growing, and her department, like others, is struggling to keep up in manpower and funding.
For example, Parks said before the center moved to its new location in 2007, it was operating out of an office that shared phone lines with emergency responders.
Then, it was possible to receive a busy signal when calling 911. At its new location, the center operates off its own line and must take in any call no matter what other emergency is being answered at that time.
She said the job is becoming more challenging because numerous cell phone calls come in to report one accident and there aren’t enough employees to handle the call volume.
Parks said the center also anticipates having to adapt to even more technological changes sooner than later.
Something she said is being called “next generation 911” will accept text messages as 911 calls. Pictures and videos will be included under the new emergency text messages.
“I can’t imagine what that’s going to do to us, but it’s coming,” Parks said.
Boyle County has had a 911 center for more than 25 years, and Scott said any formal agreement regarding funding has been lost.
He said what each funding agency contributes to the center is based on the number of emergency calls placed in its area, but that doesn’t mean it’s adequate.
And since the 911 center must be operated, the city of Danville continues to pay more. As of this fiscal year, Danville is budgeted to pay $445,466, which is more than half of the center’s budget.
Scott said to his knowledge, the last time any written agreement was made for the center’s funding was in the ‘80s. He said there’s not really a concern with how funds are received, as each contributor realizes the importance of the center.
Rather, he said the issue is whether the funds are enough to keep up with all that is changing.
“I think we need a written agreement in terms of just revisiting the issue of the basic funding methodology and whether that’s fair or the best we can come up with,” he said. “Because it hasn’t been addressed locally here for a number of years.”
Scott said all the parties involved will need to start meeting to discuss these issues and it may be a lengthy process.