Madison County taxpayers will soon pay more for 911 service

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF)- The price for 911 emergency service is going up later this year.

Madison County is replacing its aging communications system and needs a way to pay for a new one.

The 911 center's Board of Directors voted for a way to pay for the multi million dollar equipment that would mean higher monthly fees on residential and business telephone bills.

While tax payers may not want to see an increase on their bill---the county says it will pay itself back ten fold when it comes to providing state-of-the art emergency services.

Jon Howell, CEO of HEMSI, said the current operation is outdated, making communication with outside agencies, especially during an emergency, difficult.

"Either I have to go through a dispatcher or I have to carry multiple radios," said Howell.

That will change when the Madison County 9-1-1 System adds the digital radio network.

Unlike the current analog system, the upgrade would allow different agencies to talk to each other by radio.

"People say 'What will it do for me?'  The answer is not much until you need our services and then it will mean everything for you," said 911 Chief Executive Officer Ernie Blair.

Telephone fees countywide will likely increase from roughly 85 cents to $2.00 a month, if you have a land-line phone, and businesses that pay $2.20 per phone line will see their fees jump to about $2.75.

So what do taxpayers think?

"I've never had to use 911, but it's nice knowing it's there.  And if they need it, I will gladly pay it," said Mark Hall.

"I definitely feel they shouldn't do that because our bills are already high," said Tommy Johnson.

The county says it's necessary to keep up with the growing demands. Plus, in an emergency situation, like a school shooting or tornado...

"We can communicate with first responders on the scene they will be able to communicate directly with our paramedics.  We won't have to be relayed through our dispatch center," said Howell.

Telephone fees will cover the cost of 911 center improvements, but emergency agencies will have to supply their own digital radios that can be costly, which is why Huntsville City will borrow 3.5 million dollars.

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