After reading Mr. Viehman’s editorial dated June 14, 2012, I am rather dismayed that he did not spend a little more time researching his information before coming to his discussion to vote NO on the 911 tax proposal in August.
Yes, it is true that Crawford County 911 provides Director Cason with a vehicle as part of his employment agreement, but the 20-year-old Suburban that Director Cason drives is a fully operational MCI dispatch vehicle. Director Cason is on call 24-7, 365 days a year. It stands to reason that he, as the director of Crawford County 911, would have access to that vehicle 24-7.
This vehicle was donated to the 911 program several years ago and until recently it was not fully operational. This practice is becoming more and more common throughout the state, as 911 centers are realizing that it is more cost effective to provide the 911 director with a MCI dispatch unit to drive, rather than to pay mileage on a personal vehicle and also maintain a secondary MCI dispatch unit. Locally, Gasconade County currently provides their director with a MCI dispatch unit and Iron County is in the process of purchasing an MCI unit for their director. It also needs to be noted that this practice is no different than our local law enforcement officers being allowed to drive their patrol cars to and from their residence on a daily basis, as they are on call 24-7, just like Director Cason.
Yes, it is true that Crawford County 911 will be asking for a one-quarter-cent sales tax increase on the August ballot. Yes, this is a 100 percent increase in revenue but Crawford County 911 is totally dependent on this sales tax for ALL operational and business expenses. Since the original sales tax was passed in 1997, 911 calls to Crawford Cencom have increased by 300 percent. In 2011 alone, 13,555 calls were processed through Crawford Cencom. How could anyone expect Crawford County 911, or any other business, to be able to continue to operate effectively in 2012 on the same income they operated on in 1997? The 2011 financial statement for Crawford County 911 shows that they ended the year with a $24,939.46 deficit.
Crawford County 911 operates with equipment that is below standard for the electronic world that we live in today. They do not have the capabilities to trace and locate 911 calls made from cell phones (8,905 cell phone calls in 2011), the dispatchers are paid an average of $8.50 per hour (well below the state average for dispatchers), and additional training and certification will soon be state mandated for all dispatchers. How are they going to pay for any improvements if they do not receive an increase in operating revenue?
Mr. Viehman stated in his editorial that “they can make those improvements without doubling their tax revenue.” In an article published in the Columbia Daily Tribune written by Brennan David, Boone County recently upgraded their “previously outdated 911 and non-emergency telephone system to the Sentinel Patriot Enhanced 911 Telephone System, a $598,000 installation that allows for better management of calls and aligns the agency for ‘next-generation 911.’” The annual average payroll to bring our 12 dispatchers to the state average payroll would be $359.480. To certify our 12 dispatchers in Emergency Medical Dispatch would cost approximately $800 per person. This is only one certification of several that will soon be state mandated for our dispatchers. A new 911 recording system is desperately needed at a cost of $12.153.95. And the list goes on.
My question to you, the voters of Crawford County is, “How much is 911 worth to you?” Is knowing that your call will be answered by trained personal and processed with up to date equipment worth 1 cent for every $4 you spend? How long can we expect Crawford County 911 to continue to operate at a loss and still serve the citizens of this county in the efficient and professional manner that you expect when you dial 911? It isn’t like Crawford County 911 plans to put a tax increase on the ballot again next year if this one passes. They were able to operate for 15 years before they had to ask for an increase in funding. To me that is pretty good business management. For me this tax increase is a given. I will be voting YES on August 7.