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Funding the Columbus E-911 Call Center

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Columbus E-911 Call Center Columbus E-911 Call Center
COLUMBUS, Ga. -

During an emergency many people automatically dial 911 and some immediately answers to assist them.

News 3 found out the Columbus E-911 Call Center has needed some financial help from the city to operate.

Major Stan Swiney with the Columbus Police Department said last year it cost nearly $3.6 million to run the 911 center. Money is collected through the 911 Emergency Telephone Fund, Other Local Option Sales Tax Fund, or OLOST and for the last couple years, the city has had to subsidize the center by about $300,000.

On a daily basis, the Columbus 911 center receives an average of 13-hundred calls and dispatches police on about 500 calls. About 60 people are employed in the center and special software is used to receive and respond to emergencies.

In 2012 the operating costs were about $3.58 million, but the center saw a 4.5 percent decrease in revenue.

"Revenues have pretty much flat-lined and gone down slightly," Major Swiney said that's partly because land-line phones are on short order these days. The operating money comes from a monthly $1.50 charge on land-line phones and a $1.00 monthly charge on cell phones.

"I'm sure that everybody realizes that the land-line telephone at home is almost an endangered species now. More and more people are going towards cell phones," Major Swiney said.

That affects revenue. But last year the state started doing something different to help recoup some of the losses. Now prepaid wireless customers also have to pay a fee that goes towards 911 call centers. Muscogee County will bring in an additional estimated $135,000  for Fiscal Year 2014.

Major Swiney said, "It's helping us to an extent to stabilize the revenue stream... the goal of the government, you know, is to have 911 pay for itself." But that might be hard to do if more revenue sources aren't identified. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson is one of 11 people across the state selected to be on the Governor's Commission on 911 System Modernization and Balanced Funding Model. Among other things, the commission is charged with addressing the funding stream. "It's still in the exploratory stage. We're gathering data, looking at other states. How do other states do these things?" Major Swiney said.

The commission is scheduled to report back to the governor in the fall.

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