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County Proposing Higher Surcharge For 911

Monroe County wants cell phone users to pay more each month to support the 911 center.
Monroe County wants cell phone users to pay more each month to support the 911 center. 

Right now, cell phone customers pay $1.20 on their bills each month. That money goes to the state and some of it is distributed to counties. Monroe County is asking the state to charge another 30 cents, but all the money would stay local. Placing a call to 911 can mean a matter of life or death.

"The good news is it is a service that most people don't think about until they need it," 911 center director John Merklinger said.

The $1.20 surcharge the cell phone customers already pay is still not enough. 

"The problem is the state takes a majority of that $1.20 and keeps most of it and does not send it to the 911 centers," Merklinger said.

Monroe County's proposal to add an additional 30 cents to that surcharge would have those funds go directly to the local 911 center. People we spoke to do not mind the extra charge.

"No [I don't]. Even if it was a dollar, I'm good," Lequitta Soto said. 

"It's not like it's going to something bizzurk or crazy. I think it's definitely a good idea. It's not that much money so I don't have a problem with it," Candice Booth said.

Former State Assemblyman David Koon has always been an advocate for the 911 centers. His daughter was murdered while on the phone with a 911 operator. Back then, 911 could not trace cell phone calls. 

"With technology changing, the peace apps have to change with it as it does; and so it's a lot of money keeping up with equipment, keeping up with the people and so on," he said.

Merklinger says the small fee will make you safer.

"In 2014, we want to replace the 911 telephone system. If we could get that 30 cent local part in, we could use that to help pay for those new 911 telephones," he said. 

Merklinger says in Monroe County, the extra 30 cents would add about $1.8 million in revenue each year. The new phone system will cost $2.3 million. The proposal will go up for a vote sometime in January. Monroe County is one of nine counties in the entire state who do not charge the additional 30 cents. 

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