Joe Wilson, director of the 911 Center, presented the Commission with a letter outlining the plan. This recommendation came out of the 911 funding committee that was formed in February to find a way to put the department’s budget “in the black,” according to the state budgeting guidelines.
“The committee decided the best way to address the current situation is to request a one-time funding increase sufficient to prevent a third year with negative net issues. The total would be $173,745 each for the city and the county and $3,510 for Charleston,” according to the letter.
The committee consisted of representatives from all three local governments.
Next, the issue will be discussed by the Bradley County Finance committee. Finance Committee Chair Connie Wilson said the group would discuss it at their May 2 meeting.
Seventh District Commissioner Bill Winters asked for confirmation that this was a problem throughout the state.
“This is really because of the shift in technology and the amount of money we get from wireless phones versus wireline,” Joe Wilson of the 911 Center said.
According to (Joe) Wilson, typical home phones are charged a $1.50 fee with most of it being given directly to the county. Cellphones are charged $1 with only about 80 cents coming back to the county.
The director said he was in favor of the fee being the same for all forms of communication that can reach 911. He said a flat fee would make things more fair even as new types of technology are able connect to the emergency call center.
The 911 center has run at a deficit this year. The center risks being run by the state if it does not operate at a break-even point. Even though the state sees the department as running at a deficit, the center does have a fund balance. This fund balance is to cover the depreciation rate for the technology and equipment that is used.
“We are going to pursue this at the state level as well,” Wilson said. “I said that a year ago when I talked to you and we intend to continue doing that.”
State Rep. Eric Watson and State Sen. Mike Bell also attended a meeting of the 911 funding committee.
“We’re kind of at a catch-22 because once we invest in new equipment the depreciation expense is going to increase again,” 1st District Commissioner Ed Elkins said.
To keep up with changing technology, the state of Tennessee is paying for 911 centers to upgrade to an Internet-based system. However, the state government will not be giving the centers money to cover the reserve necessary to eventually replace the equipment.
Also during the meeting:
n Because of new state regulations requiring counties to re-bid accounts every four years, Bradley County Trustee Mike Smith announced that the county’s checking account was bid and CapitalMark was found to have the highest interest-earning account. Smith said the county had been using First Tennessee for years prior to the re-bid.
n During communication from the audience, a segment at the end of every Commission meeting where the public is given a chance to speak, community member Dan Rawls raised concerns about results of last week’s public survey on future planning not being released on Thursday.
“On Thursday there was supposed to be a presentation there of all the results of the meeting. I find it interesting that they did not present the results because, we were told, they did not like the results,” Rawls said.
A survey was given to rate public opinion on suggested ideas to be included in a comprehensive plan addressing future growth in Cleveland, Charleston and Bradley County at large.
Elkins explained that he would have liked to have also seen the results. However, he said the results were not a true picture of public opinion.
“It was pretty obvious that there was a concerted effort to skew the results. A group of people that attended marked everything ‘strongly disagree,’ and unfortunately, a concerted effort can skew the results on something like this. And unfortunately, the general public did not come out in very large numbers to voice opinion,” Elkins said.
The survey was based on a scale of strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree and strongly disagree. The statements on the surveys were developed by local committees focusing on particular aspects of future planning.
Rawls said the wording of many of the statements included terms the general public would not fully understand without explanation.
“The results need to be published because there were results,” Rawls said. “... I don’t think anyone sabotaged anything.”
Winters said there were people trying to help the public understand the wording of the survey during a two-day planning workshop at the conference center in Bradley Square Mall last week.