911 mulls fines for chronic false calls

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 2, 2002

[08/02/02]Warren County homeowners with alarm systems could be facing fines for false 911 calls under a plan being considered by local elected officials to supplement funding for the emergency dispatch center.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Warren County supervisors agreed Thursday to look into a proposal to charge $25 for every false alarm after the third call.

The additional fee would also fund a $389,000 deficit in the coming year’s budget for 911 usually funded by the city and the county. Last year, the two governing boards did not agree on a formula for splitting that supplement until nearly five months into the fiscal year.

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Under the funding method that has been used since the combined dispatch center was created in 1989, the city has funded about 70 percent of the deficit and the county the remaining 30 percent. While county officials have said that formula is fair because most of the 911 calls come from city residents, Vicksburg officials have argued that city taxpayers are funding an unfair portion of that expense.

The reason given by Mayor Laurence Leyens is that city residents also pay county taxes and are, in effect, funding a portion of the county’s share also.

“Any deficit should be funded by everyone equally,” Leyens said.

Other funding for 911 comes from $1 surcharges for residential lines and $2 for businesses. Cell phone users are also assessed $1 per month.

Leyens, who serves on the 911 commission, said that by adding the $25 fee for false alarms and calls, the dispatch center could become self-funded.

“It puts the burden back on the person who is using 911,” Leyens said.

District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale, who also serves on the 911 commission, said other communities in Mississippi charge additional fees for false alarms. He said they will look into how that might work in Warren County.

The two boards also discussed tax abatements for restoration of historic structures in the business district, development at the Riverfront Park and creating a combined animal control center.