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Public comment sought on E-911 addressing ordinance

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

BENTON -- Scott County Commissioners will wait about two weeks before passing an E-911 addressing ordinance to allow time for public comment.

Commissioners discussed various sections of the addressing ordinance draft during their regular meeting Tuesday.

Presiding Commissioner Martin Priggel said the reason commissioners are working on this ordinance is public safety.

"We have a lot of homes out in the county that do not have numbers on them," he said. "People need to have numbers on their homes when that ambulance comes, when public safety comes. They need to be able to find them. Those minutes might be awfully important when they are trying to find them."

"It's for their own safety," Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn agreed.

Joe Burton, Scott County E-911 administrator, said self-addressing by residents is not acceptable.

"That address has to come from 911 -- that's the legal address," he said. "It's used by fire, EMS, law enforcement and the postal service."

County officials do not intend to change any existing road names, Priggel said.

Any new roads, however, will need to be approved by the county and must be unique in both name and sound. For example, if there is a "Beech Street," they will not allow a "Beach Street," and they will not allow a "Pine Street" if there is already a "Pine Lane."

The ordinance would require at least three residences to be on a road for it to be named.

"We don't want everybody naming every little driveway," Burton said.

For a name to be assigned, residents must contact Burton or the county commissioners so it will be added to the E-911 database.

"They need to have it approved in advance before they go out and have signs made or anything," he said.

State statutes provide law enforcement, fire districts and 911 administrators with the authority to enforce addressing ordinances, according to Burton.

"Some counties don't enforce it, some counties do enforce it," he said.

Burton said some counties don't issue citations unless an emergency service responds to a residence with a missing or improperly-posted address. A first offense typically requires compliance within 30 days while a second offense can result in a fine.

"We're not wanting to put fines on people, we just want them to get addresses up for their own safety," Ziegenhorn said. He suggested the county could drop the fine if proof of compliance is submitted.

Before coming to a final decision on penalties for noncompliance, commissioners will "wait and see what kind of feedback we get from the ones it will affect," Ziegenhorn said.

Until then, commissioners will continue "looking at every different option out there," Commissioner Jamie Burger said.

In other business Tuesday:

* Terry McDermott, AT&T's area manager for E-911 public safety, met with commissioners to discuss the past two phone bills received by the county as well as future billing related to E-911.

"I apologize for the confusion that took place when we first set this up," McDermott said.

McDermott said the bigger bills are related to the open-ended lease which includes E-911 equipment maintenance costs.

He said there are three billing options: one with a high down payment and low monthly cost; one with a low down payment and high monthly costs; and a "middle of the road" option. The monthly rate stays the same as long as the county keeps the equipment.

"It allows our customers different options," McDermott said. "It depends on what our customers can afford."

Priggel said the county's E-911 revenue is limited and declining.

"To be honest with you, Scott Country is not alone," McDermott said. He said the E-911 revenue drop is "because land lines are going away and people are going to wireless (phones). ... Technology is a double-edged sword."

By selecting a different option, the county can bring its monthly rate down but will owe an additional $30,000 for the down payment.

Priggel said the county is unable to come up with another $30,000 as a lump sum.

"We're willing to work with you on what we need to do to make it right," McDermott said, although he added he was unable to say what that arrangement might be.

"I'd have to go back and talk to my boss," he said. "I just don't want to make a commitment I can't stand behind."

Burger said AT&T's collection department was "threatening to cut us off."

"I apologize for that -- that's where we dropped the ball," McDermott said.

McDermott said he told the collections department not to call Scott County because they are in the middle of a billing discrepancy.

"You can't disconnect 911," he said. "Heads would roll."

Commissioners agreed to pay the overdue amount while McDermott advised the collections department will be instructed to remove any penalties if they have been billed.

While the company tries to keep all departments on the same page, "sometimes we get out of step," McDermott said.

"You all have been excellent customers of ours," he added.

* Commissioners accepted an agreement with Missouri Delta Medical Center which states the hospital will provide care to indigent county residents.

Charles Ancell with MDMC explained that because the hospital treats a disproportionate share of Medicaid patients and has a program to provide care to indigent patients, the hospital is eligible for lower drug prices through the federal Public Health Service Act.

The legislation, which puts a ceiling on outpatient drug prices, requires documentation of MDMC's commitment to providing indigent care to county residents.

"It will save a lot of money for people that come to our hospital," Ancell said.