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E-911 has no money to operate

Greene County E-911 is in need of more funding before it can begin service on the June 1 deadline. Board member Lew Bostick expressed concern Thursday that the agency would not have enough money to pay for equipment let alone pay salaries in June.

The agency’s board held its regular meeting Thursday afternoon in the county courthouse. E-911 currently has approximately $230,000 on hand and will likely need much more.

Greene County is the last county in the state to set up an Emergency 911 service to dispatch for city and county law enforcement, ambulances and the 13 volunteer fire departments.

Board members accepted a bid from Chism Communciations for a three-station control system, however, they may decide to eliminate one dispatcher station initially to save $19,000.

E-911 receives tax revenue from telephone surcharges, however the popularity of cell phones has reduced that revenue as many families cut the cord with regular phone service in favor of cordless phones.

Twenty percent of bingo gaming proceeds is supposed to go to county E-911, however, the agency has yet to receive a check since gaming began early this year.

Board chairman, sheriff Johnny Isaac, said the E-911 would need to open in June even if it had to be contracted out. The county E-911 office will be located on Prairie Avenue in downtown Eutaw.

The Greene County Volunteer Fire Association had been raising money for E-911 through selling ads for a commemorative booklet, but that campaign had stalled after some donors were concerned the money was not going to go to E-911.

“I would like to see the board act on its own,” Bostick said at Thursday’s meeting. He had told some donors to just write a check directly to E-911.

The VFD association assured E-911 that every dime collected would come to the agency, Isaac said. “Why would we turn down money from anybody?” the sheriff said. “If they have a mechanism to raise funds for E-911 – and that’s where it’s going to go – why would we turn it down?”

Eutaw Police Chief Reginald Spencer said the volunteer fire associations will benefit from the county E-911 dispatching, and they should contribute funding. The E-911 board had previously asked the fire association for a direct contribution of $20,000, but the association said the money was already committed for equipment.

“They’re getting more and more in line to be able to make a contribution,” Spencer said. They receive money from ad volorum tax, and by law 20 percent of bingo gaming proceeds goes to the association.

The individual fire departments are each trying to pay for equipment and build new stations, Isaac said. “We can’t expect them to drop everything that they’re doing in order to support us,” the sheriff said.

“The fire association is the most well funded agency in Greene County today,” Bostick said, “and will continue to be as long as the bingo stays the way it is doing.”

Isaac said the board should not fight the association on one hand interfering with fundraising but then go ask them for a contribution from them on the other hand.

The board voted Thursday to allow the fire department association to continue to raise money. However, E-911 board members may also make individual pleas to local businesses.