The City Council appears likely to approve a 50-cent monthly surcharge on each telephone line in Provo to fund the installation and maintenance of an upgraded 911 emergency telephone system.
The council discussed the so-called enhanced 911, or E-911, proposal during a study session this week and voted unanimously to put the item on its May 3 meeting agenda for final action.If the council approves the surcharge, Provo could become the first Utah County city committed to funding the E-911 service. Utah County commissioners have said the countywide system could be operative within two years, if cities are willing to approve the surcharge to provide funding.
The E-911 system, already in use in Weber County and being installed in Salt Lake and Davis counties, offers a major advantage over the current 911 emergency telephone system.
E-911 employs computers to lock in and trace incoming calls to the 911 emergency number. The address and phone number where the call originates are displayed on a computer screen as soon as a dispatcher answers the call.
Law enforcement officials say the E-911 system would allow them to respond immediately to an emergency call even when the caller a young child or an incapacitated adult, for example cannot give the answering dispatcher an address.
Estmates of E-911 system start-up costs include about $175,000 for purchase and installation of computer data base equipment, $20,000 for additional needed telephone lines and approximately $500,000 for each answering point, or dispatch center, included on the system. An additional $30,000 monthly would be needed to maintain the system.
If the surcharge were placed on all phone lines in Utah County, almost $38,000 monthly could be raised to fund the system. The county plans to collect the 50-cent surcharge for about two years to raise the needed start-up funding. After that the surcharge would drop to about 37 cents monthly to fund system maintenance.
But not all Utah County cities are expected to support the E-911 system and approve the surcharge. Mayor Joe Jenkins said if other cities decide not to participate in funding the system, Provo still will proceed.
"We have enough phone lines so that it won't cost us any more to go it alone if we have to," Jenkins told council members.
If the council approves the surcharge, it may impose two conditions. The city may want to hold the surcharge money collected in Provo during the two-year period while start-up money is being accumulated and also have two rather than five dispatch centers.