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The E911 Quandry
Friday, 05 March 2010

March 5-  It appears a long-standing arrangement on funding E911 operations in Toombs and Montgomery counties is about to come to an end.

At a called meeting Wednesday, Montgomery County commissioners turned down an agreement with Toombs County which would have obligated the county to pay a per capita share of any cost overruns and new equipment costs.

In the past, Montgomery County has paid no tax dollars to Toombs County for the service.  The county's telephone users are assessed a monthly charge which is paid to Toombs County 911.  In 2009, the fees amounted to $95,000.  Because the fees don't cover the total cost of operating E911, Toombs County has been trying since last April to get Montgomery County to pay a share of the deficit currently estimated at $3,875 a month.

In the absence of an agreement, Toombs County Commission Chairman Buddy West informed Montgomery County all E911 services to Montgomery County will be terminated March 31.  Montgomery County Attorney Mackey Bryant met behind closed doors with Montgomery commissioners Wednesday to discuss  legal options the county may have to stop Toombs County from cutting off service.

Meanwhile, Chairman Brandon Braddy says the county is continuing to investigate starting it's own E911 service.  He estimates annual operating costs of $190,000 can be paid for using telephone user fees and the salaries which currently pay for dispatchers at the county sheriff's office.  An estimated $200,000 in start-up equipment costs would be paid for over a seven-year period using sales tax revenue, he says.

Montgomery County EMA Director John Neff estimates it would take up to six months to get E911 up and going.

Toombs County manager Doug Eaves says Toombs has bent over backwards to accomodate Montgomery County's concerns.  However, he notes Toombs owes it to its taxpayers to seek cost-sharing with others who benefit from the service.  Eaves says most other counties in the state have such agreements.

Toombs officials agree that if the two commissions are unable to reach an agreement, Toombs taxpayers will have to make up for the loss of $95,000 or more in Montgomery County telephone user fees each year in the future.  They also believe Montgomery County is underestimating the cost of running it's own E911 system and that Montgomery County taxpayers will be impacted sooner or later.

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