Claremore Daily Progress

January 3, 2014

E911 Center nears opening, financing still in question

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

The new E911 Center hosted  the E911 Trust Authority Thursday to discuss final details before officially opening Jan.  16.
A lack of quorum kept the board from making any decisions; however,  they briefly discussed the center’s financial health.
Oologah Talala Emergency Medical Services Director Kelly Deal, Northwest Fire District Chief David Puckett, Foyil Fire Department Chief Randy Atchley and Rogers County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jerry Smittle were present for the informal discussion.
The Rogers County Sheriff’s Office, Verdigris police and fire departments, as well as (OTEMS), will be the only agencies being serviced when the center opens, E911 Director Janet Hamilton said.
The trustees want answers about fees associated with joining the center and why no contracts for service have been completed with the two Verdigris agencies.
Verdigris police and fire departments are seeking a decreased rate due to their use of mobile cop technology.
The fee for law enforcement agencies is currently set at $13,000 annually.
Hamilton said the fee is required to meet the gap between the amount of 911 phone tax collected and monthly expenses.
E911 tax collections will be about $264,000 annually, according to Hamilton.
She said the Board of County Commissioners would be responsible for contracts with the agencies as she asked the trustees for direction.
Verdigris fire and police have been receiving dispatching services free of charge for a few months, according to Hamilton.
The program was to serve as a training pilot until the center is opened. With only two weeks remaining and no contract in place, other agencies are watching closely to see what the county will do.
The two agencies would each pay a monthly fee, if a contract is approved, using the guidelines approved by the trust last fall.
Fire departments will pay a minimum fee of $300 a month. EMS services will pay a rate, starting at $1,350 a month.
Initially, the fees should generate approximately $233,000 annually, according to Hamilton.
Despite plans for enrollment, contracts will be necessary to obtain the funding needed to keep the center operational, according to Hamilton.
The board brought forward questions about why the public is paying for dispatch services when they voted in a tax for the E911 Center.
Atchley said he is receiving negative feedback from people wanting answers about why an additional fee is required.
The bond issue passed in 2010 supplied $32.5 million to complete the courthouse and build the new center.
The bond did not include funds for monthly operation costs, according to Hamilton.
Smittle said the public would be surprised to learn the monthly cost to run the equipment inside the center.
Monthly expenses will be approximately $130,00,  including $33,000 for salaries, $3,000 for COX network services, $14,000 for AT&T phone service and equipment lease payments of $80,000 beginning July 1, Hamilton said.
Other incidental expenses will be incurred. These items simply account for the monthly reoccurring cost, according to Hamilton.
The Sheriff’s office is contributing funds through the Rogers County Commissioners, which funds salaries and benefits.