Voters could be asked next fall to approve a telephone bill surcharge to pay for the service.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- A proposal to establish a 911 emergency telephone answering system in Columbiana County will get a boost in the next few weeks.
That's when a consultant hired by the county in April to assess the county's 911 needs and provide ideas on possible system designs is expected to report his findings to area officials.
Once the report by William Staton and Associates of Coshocton is finished, it will be provided to a county 911 advisory committee and the public, said county Commissioner President Dave Cranmer.
Cranmer also is chairman of the advisory committee, which consists of area governmental and safety officials.
The advisory committee will use Staton's report to formulate a 911 plan, Cranmer explained.
It's likely that whatever 911 system is proposed, it will feature a 911 answering center, he said. Officials have discussed locating the center next to the sheriff's offices in the county's jail complex in Center Township.
What's likely: The Staton report also is expected to advise whether a county system will need auxiliary answering points at various locations in the county.
The answering points may be required to ensure all the police, fire and safety agencies 911 operators must contact can be reached by radio, Cranmer explained.
It's probable that all communities that currently have 24-hour police and fire dispatching will keep it, although the 911 system will be largely responsible for handling emergency calls, he added.
Even with a 911 system, local dispatchers are needed to handle nonemergency calls, Cranmer noted.
Staton's report will also provide cost estimates for a 911 system.
Paying for it: There are two primary means of funding the service.
Commissioners may place an issue on the election ballot asking voters to approve a 50-cent surcharge on monthly telephone bills.
The fee would raise about $300,000 annually and pay for annual operations costs for a 911 system.
Cranmer said he would like to see a surcharge issue placed on the November 2002 ballot.
To aid in buying equipment necessary to create a system, the county expects to get about $400,000 from Ameritech.
The money is part of a settlement the telephone company made with the state over a service dispute.