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Warren Co. supervisors want to increase cell phone fee for 911

If approved by the Legislature, which convenes Jan. 2, the monthly surcharge would rise to $2.50 or $3.

The increase would be proposed in a Local and Private bill, a piece of legislation that affects only one community and does not change general state laws.

Warren County voters agreed in 1989 to pay a monthly surcharge on phone bills to fund then-new technology that provided the names and addresses of those who dialed 911 seeking emergency services.

Officials have said the surcharge has not been sufficient to fund the entire cost of a consolidated city-county dispatch center created when the technology became available.

After a one-year surge to $1.8 million to acquire new equipment, the E-911 center has a budget of about $1.2 million this year. It requires $600,000 from local governments, with the remainder coming from phone surcharges that are now $1 per cell line, $1 per residential line and $2 per business line.

County Administrator John Smith said the use of wired lines is declining and that of cell phones is increasing with the rates of change resulting in a net loss of revenue for the dispatch center.

Supervisor David McDonald cited E-911 records showing the center receives 57 percent of its calls from cell phones.

“I’m a believer in the people that use something ought to be the ones that pay for it,” McDonald said.

Sen. Mike Chaney, R-Vicksburg, said there would be issues to resolve, including whether the state Public Service Commission would allow different areas to impose different fees.