Lack of fees hurts 911

The Newton County 911 office is at a major disadvantage compared to neighboring counties.

At Monday’s Newton County Board of Supervisors meeting, new Emergency Management/911 director Bryan Taylor addressed the current state of the county’s 911 office. Currently,  Newton County is on the cusp of a major upgrade of its 911 system.

Several ideas are being tossed around from upgrading the system to possibly sending the 911 dispatching to another office as a cost-cutting measure. Nothing has been decided at this time, and proposals from both Lauderdale and Neshoba counties to handle Newton County’s 911 should be submitted for the Dec. 21 meeting.

However, Taylor said that the county is seeing a lot of its state 911 fees heading to other counties. He stated that 70 percent of the county’s residences do not have landlines and use only mobile phones. Because those mobile numbers of Newton County residents originate from either Meridian, Philadelphia or Forest, those 911 fees are going to those respective counties instead of coming to Newton County.

Mobile numbers are charged $1 per line per month, or it’s prepaid when purchasing minutes. Newton County’s population is estimated to be about 21,500. With the proliferation of mobile phones, you can bet that the number of wireless phone lines is at least 15,000 when accounting for young children not having them.

So that’s at least $15,000 per month or $180,000 per year that’s going to the coffers of surrounding counties for dispatch instead of supporting our local 911 office.

This isn’t fair. It would make more sense that the 911 fees should go to the place where the phones are being used or at least where the county where the billing addresses are located. Such a change would likely take action by the legislature. With the financial crunch being as tough as it is, every dollar counts especially in a county the size of ours.

We hope the state would correct this injustice by distributing the fees based on where people live, not the three-digit exchange of the phone number.