State emergency preparedness officials say upgrades to Missouri’s 9-1-1 system are desperately needed, but how to convince Missouri voters of that is the task ahead.
Problems in Missouri include not being able to locate cell phone users who dial 9-1-1; 18 counties without a 9-1-1 system; and falling revenues due to the decline in hardwire phones and the growth of cell phones. Twice the state has asked voters to impose a cell phone fee for 9-1-1. Twice voters have rejected the fee.
State 9-1-1 Coordinator R-D Porter says there were several reasons for the defeats, but one stands out. He says most agree that voters have rejected the increase, because they believe they already have the services the increase would fund.
In November of 1998, Missouri voters defeated the measure by a narrow margin; 48% voting in favor with 52% voting against the cell phone fee. Porter points out that the controversial conceal and carry issue was on that ballot and it was extremely difficult to get the 9-1-1 message out. That can’t explain the larger defeat in 2002, though. Only 42% of the voters in April of 2002 voted in favor of the 9-1-1 cell phone fee.
Lack of money isn’t the only problem facing 9-1-1 in Missouri. Porter tells a legislative committee that Missouri has 26 statutes dealing with 9-1-1, with little coordination among them. He says many of the statutes conflict and some are no long applicable.
An oversight committee has suggested the state impose a 75-cent fee on cell phones to pay for 9-1-1 upgrades. That issue, of course, would require voter approval.