A group that’s organized to try to find new funding for 9-1-1 call centers says the path may run through a statewide ballot.
Lisa Schlottach, President of the Missouri 9-1-1 Directors Association, says it’s a dire situation in some areas of the state.
“There are a few counties right now that don’t know how they’re going to get funding,” Schlottach said.
She says many 9-1-1 call centers in the state rely on fees applied to land lines for their funding.
“People that are getting away from their house phone and going to their cell phone, well there goes some of that funding that went to your 9-1-1 center. Now it’s going to your cell phone, which you’re not charged for at all,” Schlottach said.
Schlottach told the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety committee her group would like to see an 80 cent per month fee on wireless phones. She says that would generate $49 million to institute new technology that can interact with wireless phones to pinpoint the location of the call.
She says her group plans to try to take the issue to a statewide vote, because it’s required since it raises so much money.
“If you bring in more than $50 million it has to go to a vote of the people, and I think in the past they’ve wanted it not to have to go to the vote of the people so that’s been one of the stumbling blocks. Another one is that there have been issues brought up with legislators about consolidation, saying we needed to consolidate. Another one was parity. It seems like there’s some key words that end up coming up and that sort of kill it,” Schlottach said.
She says Missouri is the only state that doesn’t have this type of legislation and the average fee for wireless phones nationwide is 84 cents a month.
“Actually it wasn’t as difficult in most states as it has been in Missouri. Some of them have had it for like 10 years, have had this funding going. I really don’t know what the key issue was in Missouri, if it was just a lack of education or if it was the approach that they had, or what. But we’ve seen a lot of good reception and positivity coming from the people we’ve talked to on it. I think that we will have support if it’s done right this year,” Schlottach said.
We asked her if she really thought Missourians would vote to charge themselves a monthly fee they aren’t already paying.
“I do. You know, there’s a lot of 9-1-1 directors that think that absolutely it will fail, that we should not do it. I think that in 2001, I believe, they had it go to a vote of the people for 50 cents and it did not pass. But I think now the technology has changed and people understand it a lot more,” Schlottach said.