Crenshaw County#039;s E-911

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 17, 2007

system is ‘treading water'

By Regina Grayson

Many people may not realize it, but Crenshaw County's E-911 system is operating in the red, and if something is not done about the funding for the emergency response and communication system, the county could lose it altogether.

&#8220What if we weren't here? What would people do?” Crenshaw County Communications/ E-911 dispatcher Rose Williams asked.

&#8220This is a train wreck waiting to happen, and we're trying to head it off before somebody dies,” Crenshaw County Commission Chairman Ronnie Hudson said.

Right now, the county's E-911 system is funded with the help of a $2 phone/land line fee. Plus, the county commission appropriates $24,000 a year to 911.

Other municipalities also budget for the emergency response system, such as Rutledge and Dozier.

However, with more and more people using cell phones only and cutting out the usage of land lines in their homes, the amounts coming in from those shrinking land lines have been less and less over the last few years. People using cell phones only pay .70 cents toward E-911 services as opposed to the $2 fee for a land line. In addition to fewer people using land line services, the operating expenses for E-911 have continued to increase.

According to Crenshaw County's E-911's actual income for 2007, the system will receive approximately $208,252. However, the expected budget shows that it is already running in the red with 2007 expenditures going beyond $211,600.

&#8220And that's operating on a skeleton crew as it is,” Paul Woolley, Chairman of the Crenshaw County E-911 Board, said. &#8220We are supposed to have eight full-time dispatchers, and right now, we only have five full-time and one part-time dispatcher.”

Chairman Hudson said that the commission and the E-911 Board have looked at several different ways in which the county can fund E-911.

&#8220An ad valorum tax has to be voted on by the people, and it would only affect property owners,” Hudson said. &#8220That's not fair because 911 is for everyone, and you never know when you might be needing it.”

Hudson added that a one-cent sales tax had been discussed, but that it would hurt retail business in the area.

&#8220We're working hard to try to get people to come in here now, not make it more difficult for businesses,” he said.

Even though some people had suggested a two-cent tax on gasoline, Hudson pointed out the fact that while some families may only have one vehicle,

others may have up to four. Also, some people might drive long distances to work every day, while others would not.

&#8220On average,

a driver in Alabama will burn around 1,000 gallons of gas per year,” Hudson said. &#8220With a two-cent sales tax per gallon, that still only comes out to $20 a year.”

Hudson said that even though the subject has been brought up before, everything keeps coming back to a $2 fee collected by the municipalities and the rural water authorities as a way to fund E-911in Crenshaw County.

The $2 fee would be added to a household's water bill even though it would have nothing to do with the actual bill itself. The county would simply be using that water authority's bookkeeping services as a way to collect the fees for E-911.

&#8220That would be a total of $24 a year,” Hudson said. &#8220We see this as the fairest way to support our county's E-911 system across the board for everyone.”

According to Hudson, the bill for the $2 fee added to each household's water bill is being written now. It will have to pass through the Legislature first, and if it passes, it would be voted on by the people of Crenshaw County in the Feb. 2008 elections.

&#8220Every county commissioner is dedicated to the safety of the people of Crenshaw County and to E-911,” Hudson said. &#8220In the meantime, we'll just have to continue treading water.”