Local News

New Budget May Force 911 Directors To Declare Emergency

Posted July 1, 2003

— Due to the passage of the state budget, some 911 centers are declaring their own emergency.

Johnston County has one of the few 911 centers in the state that can track all cell phone calls using GPS satellite technology. The wireless 911 fund pays for the equipment and pays for phone carriers to adapt to the system. However, state lawmakers took $33 million from the fund to help balance the state budget.

"This could have a serious effect on the 911 centers and the 911 system in North Carolina," said Jason Barbour, incoming president for North Carolina's 911 directors.

Barbour said the 911 money makes up a third of his budget and he believes raiding the fund will further delay deployment of the life-saving technology at other centers across the state.

"I don't think they realized what they were doing when they took that kind of money," he said.

House Speaker Richard Morgan, R-Moore, said diverting the 911 money has been on the table for weeks. Plus, he said about $20 million will be leftover.

"We don't expect any harm to come or any impact of services or any change in direction,"

Emergency 911 directors disagree with that assessment, and they fear the public could pay in the end.

They also warn the cut could create more problems. The U.S. Senate is considering a bill to direct federal money for 911 centers, but the legislation disqualifies states that raid their 911 funds. Since wireless carriers are mandated by the FCC to implement the technology, some critics worry phone companies could raise rates to compensate for the cuts.

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