Taxpayer money could be saved by consolidating the four 911 call centers in Franklin County into one, State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, said.
He told The Missourian Tuesday that a bill to put a 911 tax on the ballot for voters to decide failed because counties around the state have not gotten serious about combining 911 call centers.
The volume of 911 calls in Franklin County only justifies one 911 call center, he said. Currently there are four — one is operated by Franklin County and the other three are run by the cities of Sullivan, Washington and Pacific, he noted.
Taxpayer money is divided between the four different centers, he said.
Hinson is familiar with emergency response issues as he is a paramedic in St. Louis County and a volunteer with the St. Clair Fire Protection District.
If consolidation occurred here, it would not have to be the county that ran the center, Hinson said. He pointed out that Washington has a state-of-the-art call center.
Franklin County is not alone in having too many call centers, Hinson said. There are other areas of the state where multiple counties could have a single call center, he said.
If there was one call center in Franklin County, Jefferson or Warren County could provide back-up dispatching if needed, Hinson added.
There is no reason that Franklin County should have multiple call centers when St. Louis County, the most populated county in the state, is consolidating its 911 services into one building, he added.
Having one center would save money because it would eliminate the need for buying redundant equipment and software, Hinson said.
The fact that consolidation has not occurred here is why he voted against a bill in the Legislature this year that would have allowed the public to vote on whether it wanted to impose a cellphone tax on itself.
The money from the tax would have replaced the land line tax, which is said to be dwindling due to more cellphone use. The purpose of the bill was to provide more revenue to bolster 911 services.
The bill would have allowed upon voter approval a monthly cellphone tax of $1.50 per communication device. It would have also charged a 3 percent fee on the retail sale of prepaid cellphones.
The bill would not have solved the funding issue because the consolidation problem has not been addressed, Hinson said.
The bill passed the House but did not make it out of the Senate. State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, also opposed the bill while State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, voted in favor of it.
Schatz also expressed the need to consolidate 911 communication services throughout the state.
Hinson said the 911 cellphone tax bill is not going to go anywhere until 911 communication personnel across the state start getting serious about consolidation. More money should not be provided until the inefficiencies created by multiple 911 call centers are addressed, Hinson added.