9-1-1 service

Emergency calling isn’t going away as solutions are mulled
There’s one big factor to keep in mind as area entities, and hopefully the state, grapple with solutions to possible funding problems with the 9-1-1 emergency services program.

Whether current 9-1-1 answering points (called PSAPs in bureaucratic lingo) are reduced or not, the service itself won’t stop for Rockdale and Milam County.

Jim Reed, executive director of the Central Texas Council of Governments (CTCOG) pledged recently that, no matter what happens with funding, the service will continue.

A worst-case scenario would see 9-1-1 calls transferred to Bell County. Nobody wants that, of course, for obvious reasons. It would slow down response time and Bell County dispatchers couldn’t be expected to know that, say, Sandy Creek is different from Sand Grove.

What is going on with 9-1-1? Nothing just yet. CTCOG has alerted cities and counties in advance that funding of current PSAPs is in jeopardy because of a previously undiscussed state bookkeeping move.

9-1-1 is supposed to be funded by a 50-cent fee on each telephone line. But in certain rural areas, like CTCOG’s, the state is holding back 12 cents of the 50. It can’t be used by the state for anything but 9-1-1 but it can sit there in a fund and get counted as potential revenue.

It’s about $148 million and it can qualify as a credit when state bean-counters figure up next year’s budget. That would assist the state in its quest to balance the budget.

The big question is whether lawmakers, who after all, are elected and have to face the voters, actually know that’s going on and would they act to restore the full 50 cents. Likely answers to those questions are “no” and “yes” respectively.

There’s a big positive change coming in less than a couple of years. Old analog lines will be switched over to digital and that’s going to upgrade the system dramatically in our area where 9-1-1 calls currently shuttle back and forth on an old trunk line to Houston.

Bottom line. 9-1-1 won’t be interrupted and it’s likely to get better if we can just hang on.—M.B.

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2010-07-08 digital edition

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