Only one state has a 9-1-1 emergency response system that is unable to locate people in trouble who call for help by cell phone. We live in it. Missourians have twice rejected monthly fees on cell phones to finance statewide enhanced 9-1-1 systems that can send emergency responders to the place where a call phone call for help is made.
A new proposal in the legislature would let voters authorize the state to impose a 25-cents per month fee on cell-phones to pay for that service. But one part of Senator John Griesheimer’s proposal calls for consolidation of some of the 175 answering centers. St. Louis Senator Tim Green knows some of those centers will fight that part of the idea. But he and Griesheimer agree the money raised by the special tax won’t be enough to provide the enhanced service at all of those centers.
Rich Dandridge, who is with the Warren County ambulance district, tells a Senate committee, "Some counties are still using seven-digit numbers. Dozens of these counties do not have the technology to properly handle the cell phone 9-1-1 call. Some experts have labeled Missouri has having one of the worst 9-1-1 systems in the nation."
It’s not such a problem in urban areas. But many rural areas, including those where urban residents like to vacation, have major problems. Representatives from those counties say they cannot afford to provide the service without the money the state would raise with this fee. They’ve told state lawmakers that urban people don’t understand that. But St.Louis Senator Tim Green says people in urban areas "understand they’re subsidizing the small phone companies. They’re subsidizing a lot of state services….So we get tired of subsidizing everything in the state when there’s a problem."
Director Mike Kindle of the Macon County 9-1-1 thinks the proposed fee is too small, by twenty cents. And he thinks the legislature should be bold enough to just do it.
But Senators also have been told the present 9-1-1 system is developing a serious weakness. In some places, existing 9-1-1 services are facing financial problems because thousands of people are abandoning their land-line phones, on which there is a 9-1-1 fee, for cell-phones–which have no fee, raising fears the funding for the present system could decline. Keith Faddis of the Mid-American Regional Council in Kansas City says more than 14-thousand people in that area abandoned land-lines in one 12-month period.
A senate committee is thinking about the issue. It will hear from more people next week