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Monday, Apr. 21, 2014

Officials concerned about 911 revenue

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

(Photo)
Steve Lankheit, David Reinbott (pictured from left) and other officials from the University of Missouri Extension presented their report Tuesday.
BENTON -- Dwindling revenues has Scott County's E-911 officials concerned about the future of the service.

Joe Burton, county E-911 administrator, presented revenue figures for E-911 from 2002 to the present along with projections for 2006 during the regular Scott County Commission meeting Tuesday.

Burton said revenue collected from the E-911 tax on phones was the lowest ever in 2005 at $234,000 and things look even worse for 2006 with projected revenue of only $215,000.

The drop in E-911 tax is due to people dropping traditional land lines in favor of wireless/cellular phones and voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) telephone service, according to Burton - a trend he expects to continue.

"We need to start thinking about this right now," he said.

If nothing changes, Burton predicted by 2008 E-911 will need to be subsidized with funds from general revenue.

State legislators over the past five years have tried a couple times to get an E

-911 surcharge placed on cell phone bills, Burton said, but wireless phone lobbyists are too powerful.

"They're trying to push it back in the counties' laps," he said.

Vonage, a VoIP provider, has offered to make an agreement with the county to contribute to E-911 in exchange for the handling their emergency calls, Burton said.

In other business Tuesday:

* University of Missouri Extension Service officials presented their annual report and entered a budget request of $34,440 for 2006, the same amount budgeted last year.

Stephen Lankheit, secretary for the Scott County Extension office, thanked commissioners for their support and listed several services county taxpayers receive from the Extension.

Commissioner Jamie Burger said that while other counties in the area have cut funding for university extension offices, "we've held the line."

Scott County has continued to fund the extension office "because we feel they're doing a very effective job, a very good job," he said. "It's been good for the county."

* County Developer Joel Evans reported on the closing of the Rural Business Opportunity Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development that funded the establishment of the county's Web site (www.scottcountymo.com) and marketing for the site.

The required local match was $6,150 but the county actually put in $7,426 worth of labor for the in-kind match, according to Evans.

Of the $21,500 in federal funds, the county spent all but $2.31.

Over the entire life of the Web site, the average page requests per day has been 1,449. During the last six months, the average has been higher at 2,500-3,000.

In last seven day, that number has been up at 7,452 and January is on pace for a record month, Evans said.

He suggested the increase in traffic at the site may be due to newspaper articles in the Standard Democrat and Southeast Missourian on the "Best of Scott County" feature for which Web site visitors voted on their favorite places around the county in 10 categories.

"I think the 'Best Of' really helped," Evans said.

The Web site now also has usage agreement forms and a benefits flyer for the Scott County Rural Water District No. 4 available for download.

* The increase in sale tax revenue for the county in 2005 was about the same as the increase seen statewide, according to Burger.

"Our sales tax for 2005 was up 2.8 percent," he said, which works out to an extra $45,220 for the county.

* Commissioners asked Evans to draft a letter to U.S. senators and congressmen in the area conveying the county's concerns about Union Pacific's plan to route additional train traffic through Scott County.

Martin Priggel, presiding commissioner, said there are no jobs at stake for the railroad if their plan is rejected by the federal Surface Transportation Board.

* Evans said he has submitted a $6,000 grant request for the Scott County Rural Fire Protection District.

The funds from the Missouri Department of Conservation and the federal Volunteer Fire Assistance Matching Grant programs would be used to purchase personal protection gear for use in fighting brush fires which account for about a quarter of the district's calls.

Structural fire protection gear is too bulky and expensive to use when responding to brush fires, Evans said.

Evans said he is also researching grants for other departments in the county.

* Missouri Department of Transportation officials have advised they will move the county's southern welcome sign on Interstate 55 and are slated to place the northern sign soon.

The southern sign was barely visible from the interstate at its old location, according to commissioners.

* The Benton Community Betterment Corporation will meet Jan. 16 at the old Benton High School at 6:30 p.m. to tour the facility.

A public meeting is scheduled to follow at 7:30 p.m. at the courthouse.

The group will discuss the possible preservation and restoration of the old high school and ways to use the space.