With the possibility of losing 911 service in the county, the Pike County Fiscal Court still has made little headway in resolving the issue.
The financial shortfall in the 911 system resulted when the Kentucky State Police raised the yearly rate from $274,000 to $513,000 which was negotiated down to $463,000.
“Currently, funding for 911 comes from the hardwired landline telephones,” 911 coordinator CJ Childers said. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen a continual decline in those phones as many have gone to cell phones.”
This trend has cut the amount of funds to sustain the use of 911.
“911 is vital to the area,” said Nee Jackson, Pike County Emergency Management director and chief of the Belfry Volunteer Fire Department. “I see it being used and saving lives in both of my roles.”
Jackson said the “golden hour” goes out the window if 911 is allowed to go out of service.
“In life-threatening situations, that first hour, what is called the ‘golden hour’, is crucial in getting help on the scene and getting the victim to a hospital,” Jackson said. “If we lose 911 service, people will have to dial up a police department or fire department to get help and that takes time.”
Jackson explained that for a fire department to respond to a call without 911, a person would call the department number, that volunteer will call another volunteer who in turn calls two more volunteers and so on until enough volunteers have been alerted. Then, those volunteers respond to the department to get the necessary equipment and then respond to the scene which they may have to hunt for since the GPS mapping is integrated into the 911 system. This all takes precious time away from the ‘golden hour’.
To create more funding to maintain the 911 system, Childers presented a plan to add a flat rate fee of $5 per month (a total of $60 per year) to be placed on the property tax bills.
“This is the most economically feasible way to get the 911 system funded,” Childers said. “It’s not a raise in property taxes but simply a flat rate fee placed on the bills.”
Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones asked during the Jan. 17 fiscal court meeting if the 911 board could send out their own billing.
“That would not be an economically feasible alternative,” Childers said. “That would entail the 911 board to hire two or three additional personnel with salaries and benefits, purchase the envelopes, stationary and postage and purchase needed computer equipment.
“If the court goes with us having to send out the bills, that flat rate fee of $5 may go up to $10 per month so we could cover the additional costs,” Childers said. “Even if we (911 board) do wind up sending out the bills there’s no guarantee we would collect all the fees.”
The fiscal court could bring up the issue at its next regular scheduled meeting, set for 5:30 p.m., Feb. 7.
“Something has to clearly be done soon or the county will lose 911 service in three or four months,” Childers said. “We really don’t have a lot of time.”
Jackson echoed the urgency of the situation.
“I don’t think the people in the county want to go back to the way of getting help as we did in the 1980s,” Jackson said. “If we lose 911, it's most likely that lives could be lost.”