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Published:May 1st, 2007 04:18 EST
Need For New 9-1-1 Telephone System May Raise Fees

Need For New 9-1-1 Telephone System May Raise Fees

By Julie Whiteman

Life, death and the price of priority.

The telephone system at the Monongalia Emergency Centralized Communications Agency (MECCA) that receives all the 9-1-1 calls for Monongalia County, is 14 years old and is causing more trouble than it is worth, says communications officer Dave Flanigan.

Replacement parts are no longer made for it so whenever a part is needed, MECCA has to either borrow or buy the part from another company that uses the same system. Also, if something breaks, MECCA must pay for a certain technician to come out and fix the problem, Flanigan explained.

“Technology is constantly changing [and our current system] just can’t keep up with [it],” says Flanigan. The use of cell phones and devices such as Sidekicks or Blackberries have become everyday affairs for most Americans; however, the current telephone system at MECCA simply is not able to keep up with these types of technology and the software carried in the devices such as cameras, camcorders, or internet, which could be helpful to handle emergencies more thoroughly. A new phone system would not only have more lines and be able to answer more calls, but it could potentially use the aforementioned technologies when taking a call.

A new system, however, would cost around $400,000 and since MECCA is funded solely on the 9-1-1 fees paid by residents of Monongalia County, this may mean a raise in the amount of the fee. Currently, the fee stands at $1.31 for a landline and $3.00 for a cellular phone line.

“Although the wireless fee was raised only two years ago, the landline fee was to be raised in 2004, according to the 1999 five-year plan for MECCA, but never was,” says Ron Kyle, director of MECCA.

According to the 2005 CAD Call Breakdown, approximately 65,224 Monongalia County residents utilized the 9-1-1 service in some way. Westover resident Gary Thompkins, 30, says he has dialed 9-1-1 twice in the twelve years he has lived here. “I can’t imagine what else I would have done if it wasn’t for 9-1-1,” says Thompkins.

Morgantown City resident and West Virginia University student Tracey Dawson, 22, says she has only dialed 9-1-1 once in the four years she has lived in Morgantown. She was locked out and threatened by a roommate and the police came and resolved the situation, at least for the moment.

Ms. Dawson did not particularly like the idea of raising the 9-1-1 fee but has a father who is ill and wants him to be able to have the fastest, most up-to-date care if he should need to call 9-1-1. “It could mean saving someone’s life,” said Dawson of the fee imposed for the new system.