Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON — The transition from landlines to mobile telephones continues to hurt Marshall County’s 911 service and drains county coffers.
Judge-Executive Mike Miller said the county is subsidizing 911 emergency dispatching with $125,000 per year. Under current state regulation, local governments may assess a 911 service charge for land lines, though the state assesses the service charge to mobile telephones. The county currently charges $1.50 for landlines, but receives about 75-cents from the state for each cellular telephone. Revenues have fallen as more people opt only for a cellular telephone and do not connect landlines.
“I haven’t heard of any movement in the General Assembly to improve the 911 situation,” Miller said at the Jan 15. Fiscal Court meeting.
Sheriff Kevin Byars said 911 operations are being forced to comply with new, and unfunded federal and state regulations. A new service will include the ability for 911 dispatchers to receive photos and video from phones.
“This is a problem that will get worse,” Miller said. “We could raise our landline fees, but that is only going to hurt seniors and small businesses who elect to continue to use landline service. More and more younger people are using cell phones.”
Commissioner Terry Anderson said he thought the most obvious solution would be allowing local governments to assess the fee to mobile phones as they deem appropriate.
Jason Luebker, director of Marshall County’s 911 service, sad he did not have an exact count of landline customers due to the number of different providers offering service.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve seen a steady decline in revenues,” Luebker said. “We did see it start to level off. There are some new technologies coming out that could affect revenues further.”
The new voice-over internet protocol allows users to place telephone calls via the Internet. Luebker said some services come with a service charge, while others do not. He said it is too early to predict how these services will affect 911 revenues.
“We’re probably looking at three or four cellular calls for every one landline call,” Luebker said. “The vast majority of calls come from cell phones. Call volumes are up, too, because people are carrying cellular phones. Now if we have a wreck on the road, we get multiple calls, when we might have gotten one or two before because people had to drive to a telephone.”
In other business, Miller presented the Fiscal Court with the 2012 Marshall County Animal Shelter report. The shelter took in 1,412 animals, with 1,145 adopted. Ninety-five animals were reclaimed and 187 animals were euthanized.
“I want to thank the staff at the shelter for the changes they’ve made,” Commissioner Misti Drew said. “We’ve seen a reduction in euthanasia by 88 percent, an increase in adoptions by 461 percent and an increase in fundraising by 866 percent since 2008.”
Commissioners took no action on a request from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to maintain two boat ramps in Marshall County. Miller said he has asked County Attorney Jeff Edwards to inquire about the request.
Edwards said his calls to Fish and Wildlife have not yet been returned. He suggested the Fiscal Court take no action until he communicated with that office.
“We’ve always provided assistance when asked,” Anderson said. “I don’t see why we should be obligated to provide further assistance.”
Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars said it made more sense to him for the Kentucky Park Service to provide assistance at the boat ramps given their proximity to Kentucky Dam Village. Fish and Wildlife has requested the county provide maintenance, mowing and law enforcement services at the ramps.
Miller announced the county’s emergency management plan has met requirements of a state statute and has been approved.
Melissa Combs, director of Emergency Management, said the plan must constantly be updated and submitted to comply with changing state and federal guidelines.