City increases funding for E-911 to help offset funding shortage

Published 3:43 pm Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The City of Greenville has agreed to pay $70,000 to the Butler County Emergency Communications District for police and fire dispatching duties.

The city will make one payment of $5,870, followed by 11 payments of $5,830, during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

During the last fiscal year, the city paid $30,000 to the Butler County Emergency Communications District.

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“To be honest, we had to increase what we were paying because E-911 really didn’t have enough money to operate the way it should,” said Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon, who also serves as chairman of the Butler County Emergency Communications District board.

E-911 services are funded in part through phone bills.

In the past, Alabama counties set their 911 rates, which show up on the telephone and cell phone bills.

That changed in 2013.

Beginning Oct. 1 of that year, a standardized charge for 911 emergency services was set at $1.75 per month.

Every Alabama phone, landline or cell phone, for both business and residential, now pays the same amount.

The charge for 911 services on the telephone bill is what pays for that service. In the past, the charges for landlines were higher than cell phones, but as more and more people abandon landlines for cell phones, 911 revenues dropped.

The distribution of funds is different for a cell phone than for a landline. A landline is stationary and the charge on the bill goes to the county where the telephone is located. Since cell phones are mobile, distribution of funds had to be different. The cellphone 911 fees are paid to the counties based on population.

“At one point we had less than $5,000 in the bank account,” McLendon said. “We had to do something, so the city agreed to increase its allocation to E-911. We want to make sure that we have the resources to do the job the way it needs to be done, and that meant finding another $40,000 for this fiscal year.”

McLendon said the lack of sufficient funding also makes it difficult to retain dispatchers.

“We’re paying them $8.25 an hour,” he said. “It’s hard to make it on that these days, so we have a lot of turnover. It takes six months to train someone for that position, and what happens is by the time they are trained, they find a better-paying job and move on. You can’t blame them, but we’ve got to find a way to take better care of them and have folks stick around for a while. That’s another reason we, as a city, agreed to pay more this year.”

According to the Alabama 911 Board, the 911 tax generates approximately $105 million a year, that is used to pay for personnel, infrastructure, equipment and other costs for 88 city and county 911 districts.

On Monday night, the Greenville City Council also voted to approve the following contracts:

  • $100,000 to the Butler County Commission to house prisoners at the Butler County Correctional facility, and $5.50 a day per inmate to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office for a meal allowance.
  • $2,728.38 per month to Quality Correctional Health Care to provide medical care to the city’s prisoners.
  • $4,800 to the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center for the Greenville Police Department’s access to the Criminal Justice Network.
  • $1,000 per month plus $13 per euthanization to the Butler County Commission for pound services.
  • $24,000 to James Travis Capps, Sr. to serve as manager of Mac Crenshaw Memorial Airport manager.
  • An agreement between Capps and the City of Greenville in which Capps pays $250 per month to lease the airport facilities, plus 5 cents for each gallon of fuel sold at the airport.
  • An $80,000 service contract with the Butler County Commission for Economic Development for promoting economic development or the City of Greenville.
  • A $25,000 service contract with the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce.
  • A $10,000 service contract with the Butler County Children’s Advocacy Center for providing social services to the children of Butler County at no cost.
  • A $1,000 service contract with the South Alabama Chapter of the American Red Cross for providing local disaster relief services at no cost to residents of Greenville and Butler County.
  • A $2,500 service contract with the Family Sunshine Center for providing social services to Greenville area families.
  • An agreement with the Greenville Housing Authority in which it pays the salary and benefits of one fulltime investigator and extra-duty hours not to exceed $53,600 to the City of Greenville.

The Greenville City Council will hold its next meeting Oct. 12 at 5:30 P.m. at City Hall.