Published 12:00 am Friday, July 27, 2001

wants phone bills to rise to add funds

[07/27/01] The commission that oversees Vicksburg’s and Warren County’s emergency dispatch system will soon ask that phone bills be increased to make more money available.

E-911 commission members, who are the heads of city and county governing, fire and police entities, voted to ask the Warren County Board of Supervisors to raise the telephone surcharges imposed on residential and business phones to support operations.

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Board members also voted to ask the city and county to resume paying the salaries of four dispatchers that commission funds have paid for the past four years.

“Without the increase in the surcharge (and the change in how dispatchers are funded) we will run out of money in 18 months,” said Lynn Marsalis, E-911 coordinator.

Voters authorized the centralized emergency dispatching service in 1989 and agreed to pay for it with telephone surcharges.

In presenting a draft of a 2002 budget, Marsalis told commissioners the phone surcharges for emergency dispatch were $1 for residential phone customers and $2 for business customers. When the Mississippi Legislature changed the law to include cell phones, it cut the residential charge to 80 cents and the business charge to $1.60, unless a county board of supervisors voted to keep the old charges. Warren County supervisors did not take that action. The charges on the cell phones have not make up the difference, Marsalis said.

Also, about four years ago, the city and county changed the formula used to pay the 14 staff dispatchers. That change specified the city would pay for seven, the county for three and E-911 would absorb the cost of four. In the proposed budget that would break down the costs to $194,082 for the city, $83,178 for the county and $110,904 for E-911 for a total of $388,216.

E-911, Marsalis said, has been using its capital reserve fund to make up the difference when salary expenditures out paced income. That has resulted in the capital reserve fund, which is invested in certificates of deposit, to drop to $175,000 as projected in the 2002 budget.

“We may have to have the commission recommend to the board of supervisors and the city for the city and county to pick up the cost of dispatchers at 75 percent and 25 percent,” Marsalis said.

He said he derived the figures based on the staffing need for 14 dispatchers and historical data from 1998 through 2000 that shows that 76.2 percent of E-911 dispatches are for city calls and 23.8 percent are for the county.

“I just rounded the numbers off to make the math easier,” he said.

L.W. Callaway III, director of the Vicksburg Warren County Emergency Management Agency, made the motions to make both recommendations to city and county officials. They passed without dissent.

In other matters before the commission:

The commissioners approved a request from Marsalis to draft a change in the E-911 operating policies and procedures to allow the coordinator and shift supervisors to release information about the type of call and a generic location to the news media. The draft will be considered by the commission later.

Approved the change of address of Vicksburg Ready Mix to 1630 U.S. 80 instead of its incorrect address.

Approved a request by the developer of a new section of Fairways subdivision to name a street Grand Bear Circle.

Approved the name of a new road off Hennington Road as Storie Lane.

Disapproved a request to name a new road off Oak Ridge Road across from Openwood Plantation Clarksview Drive because there were too many similar names and asked the developer to come up with an alternate.

Approved renumbering several addresses on Johnson and Lee streets.

The decisions on the street names and numberings will be forwarded to city and county boards for final approval.