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E911 service fees to be collected differently

On Thursday, the Troup County Board of Commissioners and E911 Director Jason Lawson discussed changes to how funds to pay for 911 services are collected. Earlier this year, the State of Georgia altered how funds for 911 services are collected. 

“This year in the state legislature, House Bill 751 was passed. It created the Georgia emergency communications authority under GEMA Homeland Security,” Lawson said. “… Under this bill, it changes the collections of all 911 fees over to the department of revenue. They are going to collect and disperse the 911 fees that everyone is charged with a cell phones, landline or internet and such as that.”

Previously, fees for emergency 911 calls were collected by phone companies and sent directly to counties, but now the money will be collected by the Georgia Department of Revenue, who will disperse the funds on a regular basis, although there was some question as to the exact frequency of the fund dispersals. County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews asked if there would be a two-month lag on payments to the county due to the change to a state dispersal, but Lawson said the change is supposed to be faster than the current system. 

“Even with that increase, we are right now supplementing our 911 by $600,000, so it still won’t catch us up to where we should be,” County Manager Tod Tentler said. “We should be paying for that with [the fee from] telephones.”

The department of revenue will take a small percentage off the total amount, but the total available to Troup County to cover E911 is still expected to be higher than the current amount.

In addition to his job as the director of Troup County E911, Lawson is part of the state group that advises the Georgia Emergency Management Agency on the 911 services, and he said that some of the changes could have a major positive impact on the county. 

“This house bill allowed us to raise the prepaid charge from $0.75 per line per month up to $1.50 beginning Jan. 1,” Lawson said. “The state will also collect this and distribute this monthly. Currently, it is just the prepaid cellphone money is distributed yearly around Oct. 15. Last year, as a side note, Troup collected $97,000 in this. This year, collections were up $7 million statewide, so we get our chunk of that based off of population. So, we should get about a $30,000 bump this year with that.”

The Troup County Emergency 911 Center receives and dispatches emergency and non-emergency calls for the Troup County Sheriff’s Office, Troup County Fire Department, LaGrange Police Department, LaGrange Fire Department and Troup County Emergency Medical Services. According to information on the county website, Troup County E911 receives an average of 250,000 calls each year.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners will meet again on Tuesday at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Avenue.