07/19/05 — City Council chooses not to support E-911 increase

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City Council chooses not to support E-911 increase

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on July 19, 2005 1:46 PM

The Goldsboro City Council chose Monday not to go on record supporting the Wayne County commissioners in increasing the monthly telephone surcharge for E-911 services.

Commissioners had asked the council to approve a resolution in support of the increase, which commissioners approved last month as part of their 2005-06 budget.

The increase, from 85 cents to $1.85 per month, will become effective in November.

The resolution also sought the council's support for the creation of a new simulcast emergency communication system and support for expanding the use of the surcharge revenues to pay for costs associated with the system.

The council approved the construction of a 300-foot communications tower that would allow the simulcast system to be built. But during a work session prior to Monday night's meeting, council members expressed reluctance to go on record supporting the fee increase, saying their backing was unnecessary and that they were concerned about how long the surcharge would be levied. They chose to drop the item from their agenda.

The county can make money by renting tower space to private wireless companies, said Council Member Chuck Allen, and should be looking to discontinue or reduce the surcharge at some point. County officials said one wireless company has already expressed interest in renting space.

County Emergency Services Director Joe Gurley, who attended the work session, told council members that the county could consider lifting the surcharge if it eventually became economically feasible, but that the decreasing number of land-line telephone users had cut into revenues from the surcharge used to keep the system going.

Gurley said the county had about 48,000 land-line users when it created the E-911 surcharge more than a decade ago. The number of customers had risen to about 70,000 but has decreased rapidly over the past five years. There are about 42,000 telephone users paying the surcharge now, he said.

Gurley noted legislation pending in the General Assembly that would do away with the surcharge and instead permit local governments to levy a more general fee for 911 services. Presently, cell phone users can call 911 for emergency help but are not being billed for the costs of running the 911 system, as are land-line phone customers. That, said Allen, isn't fair. The burden should be spread evenly among those benefiting from the system, he said.

During the meeting, council members unanimously approved a conditional use permit that would allow the construction of the tower on a lot on the southeast corner of Humphrey and Eighth streets. Officials with both Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and Wayne Memorial Hospital have said they had no problems with construction of the tower, which would be self-supportive, with no guy wires.

The county received bids for constructing the tower but rejected them all. A second round of bids is expected to be opened Wednesday. Officials said the tower will take about three months to build.