Claremore Daily Progress

June 20, 2013

Budget planning prompts E911 fee discussion

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

The Rogers County E911 Trust Authority will meet July 3 to discuss budget concerns and request system users to pay for services.
Rogers County Commissioner Mike Helm made a request Monday to E911 Director Janet Hamilton to finalize commitments to join the center and determine funding.
Hamilton reported to the trust members June 13 that no budget numbers have been made available to her;  and therefore, no cost estimate exists at this time.
For months members have been seeking an answer to the question, “How much will it cost to join the center?”  No answer has been provided, as it appears nobody really knows and now pressure is being applied from Helm to finalize the figures.
Hamilton has explained to the trust, which has yet to be legally formed, that she is waiting on figures from the commissioners.
The E911 budget will be determined once the final numbers are determined on the bond that was passed by voters to build and equip the center. No final numbers on the bond proceeds have been provided, according to Hamilton.
The hold up is the final expenses of the new courthouse, she told trustees.
Once the commissioners determine how much money is left in the account, then we will know exactly how much funding will be available for the E911 Center, she added.
Since the bonds were written, the courthouse and E911 Center projects were changed to include the renovations of the Rogers County Jail to house the Rogers County Emergency Management Operation Center.
This expense has yet to be finalized, according to officials.
Additionally, the courthouse parking lot has not been built and the cost to tear down the old building has not been determined. Helm is now putting pressure to determine the new budget in which he voiced his plans Monday  to stop the funding of the E911 Center employees.
“Since it is budget time, we need to have a conversation on what each entity will be paying for services,” according to Helm.
“We have a budget and those entities inside the regional 911 must be paid to be in,” Helm said.
Last year, we paid $348,000 total for employee salaries and this “one third” will not be paying in, he added.
Hamilton said that only the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office and Verdigris Police and Fire Departments are committed to joining, although no entity has signed any legal documents.
The cities that are interested are waiting on approval from their city council to accept beneficial interest in the trust, according to Hamilton.
Rogers County Fire Districts are automatically beneficiaries, according to Hamilton, but none have agreed to participate. The trust members have been voicing concerns for approximately a year about the cost of joining and no numbers   have been provided to date.
The entities cannot formally join the trust until their boards approve the expense to their budget.
Ultimately, Rogers County is responsible for providing E911 service to residents.
The level of the service and participation from area agencies in the E911 Center has yet to be determined.