Mo. county adds 911 cell phone tax to April ballot
The appearance of the measure on the ballot is due the a continual decrease in funding from the landline tax
Moberly Monitor-Index, Mo.
The Moberly City Council and Randolph County Commission finalized an agreement concerning emergency dispatching throughout the county that will prompt a cellphone tax to appear on the April 2 ballot for voter approval.
The agreement was approved by the city council during a special meeting held Wednesday. The meeting also included two resolutions relating to an updated management agreement for Heritage Hills Golf Course and solar services agreement with MC Power.
A law was passed last year in the state legislature that allows counties and municipalities to collect $1 per month from cellphone users, with voter approval, to fund dispatch operations and emergency communications.
The county commission approved the measure to appear on the ballot and the Moberly City Council approved the agreement with county, where funds collected by the county, related to the cellphone tax, will be remitted to Moberly to enhance dispatch services.
The appearance of the measure on the ballot is due the a continual decrease in funding from the landline tax, which also goes into funding dispatch services and emergency communications. Due to the decline in landline funds, communication technology for emergency services in the county have started to fall behind, Moberly City Manager Brian Crane said.
"What we've continued to see is that landline cost go down," Crane said. "That funds our (dispatch) operations. ...What we're realizing over the last few years, is a decline in our technology and a tough struggle to keep up with those technology improvements with that declining revenue."
The dispatch system for Randolph County is centralized through the Moberly Police Department. When 911 is called, an emergency operator directs the call to the appropriate emergency service, such as the Moberly Police Department or the Randolph County Sheriff's Office.
If Randolph County Ambulance District, the Moberly Fire Department or one of the rural fire departments are required, the call is directed from Moberly PD to the RCAD dispatch. Dispatch will then send out the call to the necessary emergency service, due to software incompatibilities between departments. The call transfers are also, partially, due to the differences in training for law enforcement dispatchers and medical/fire dispatchers.
RCAD's software accesses medical records as well as fire emergency information, unlike Moberly PD's software. Certain dispatchers are also trained for specific call types. The EMTs at RCAD are always on rotation as trained dispatchers.
The main difference in the city and county's new agreement will be the dispatch system's funding sources, if it is approved by voters.
Aside from technological improvements to the system, revenue from the tax would mean that communication dispatchers could see an increase in pay, Crane said.
"Our communication dispatchers, for years, have been paid very little," Crane said. "They make $24,000 a year of take home pay. (It's a) very stressful job. They are very committed people, and we appreciate their work. But we also think that they need a little more money, because we continue to get people leave that job and go somewhere else where they can make more money or do the same job somewhere else."
The cellphone tax could generate between $275,000-300,000, which is only a rough estimate, Crane said during a January meeting. In the same meeting, he said the annual operating cost of dispatching services are approximately $600,000, but only $140,000 is covered by the landline tax. The rest of the funding is pulled from the city's general funds, and another $90,000 comes from the county.
Part of the city-county agreement also forms an advisory board that includes all the jurisdictions of emergency services in the county, Crane said.
"What we've heard from the voters is they want to see an understanding of how we're going to use the money," Crane said. "... (The board) is going to meet regularly to come up with solution to these funding shortages and technology issues we're having in our system. Hopefully, that framework will bring all the entities together that use the services and figure out how to make that 911 system the best it can be."
The council approved revisions to a solar services agreement with MC Power that will exclude solar panels from one building in the original project and create production standard. The project, which was originally approved in December, aimed to install solar panels on 19 city-owned buildings and also include roof repairs on the Moberly Municipal Auditorium, Moberly City Hall and the fire and police stations.
While the roof on the auditorium was already repaired, the revision removed the installation of solar panels from the building. The solar panels would not have worked well on the auditorium roof, Public Works Director Tom Sanders said.
"Due to the shape of the roof, it didn't fit for the panels well," Sanders said. "... It really didn't make sense to have that few up there. So we've taken that out of the (overall) project."
As part of the revision, there is also a production standard that requires MC Power to meet a certain percentage of the promised power output. If the production standard is not met, the city will pay less in its lease agreement with the company, Sanders said.
The council approved an updated golf course management agreement for the Heritage Hills Golf Course with Greatlife, a professional golf course management firm from Kansas City.
The agreement will take effect April 1 and cost $41,196 annually.
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