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New 911 system to be funded through 25-cent phone surcharge

TONOPAH — Residents of Nye County will soon be paying a 25-cent per month surcharge on their land line and cell phones, after recommendations of a 911 Advisory Committee were adopted by county commissioners Tuesday.

Property owners already pay a tax rate of a half-cent per $100 of valuation to fund the 911 system. The proposed surcharges, which include a $2.50 per month tax on trunk lines, are to pay for the Next Generation 911 system, Nye County Information Technology Director Milan Dimac said.

People with cellular phones using a 702 area code in Las Vegas are already paying a 50-cent surcharge per month for 911, Dimac said. Nevada Revised Statutes allow a surcharge up to 50 cents per month.

The half-cent property tax is projected to bring in $60,000 in the 2014-15 fiscal year. The surcharges would bring in another $86,196. The $55,000 generated from the tax revenue alone won’t sustain a new system, which the county has to convert to because the old 911 system will no longer be supported as of Oct. 1, Dimac said.

“We technically could’ve been collecting this tax the last eight years. We didn’t need it. We had enough revenue to support the systems at the time. Unfortunately, like everything else, costs go up,” Dimac said of the surcharges.

A trunk line is one used by a business, where there are multiple phone lines in the same location, that typically wouldn’t be required in a residence.

There will be some 911 upgrades that customers could appreciate, he said. For one, the software will allow people to text 911 besides call.

“Let’s say somebody invaded your office building and you don’t want to be making a phone call but you can text 911,” Dimac said.

The other big change would make 911 dispatch service portable. If something happened at the Ian Deutch Government Complex at 1520 E. Basin Ave., like a bomb threat, he said a dispatcher could have the system on a lapStop and come over to the county administration department and do the dispatching elsewhere. That’s the Vesta4 Command Post feature.

“Sooner or later they hope to have the availability to actually be able to send a picture,” Dimac said.

The upgrade is going on at the same time Nye County consolidates call center operations to the Pahrump dispatch center.

Statistics by the 911 Advisory Committee estimate 85 percent of husband and wife households in Nye County have cellular phones, or 9,293 households out of 11,929, with just a male in the household that increases to 90 percent, or 870 households, with just a female it increases to 95 percent, 1,586 households. A person living alone is likely to have a cell phone 90 percent of the time, three-quarters of householders not living alone will have one.

There was a $210,046 estimated fund balance to start the fiscal year July 1 in the 911 Advisory Committee Fund, the property tax and surcharge will raise $146,196. The $153,952 expenses for the new system will still leave a $202,290 fund balance to carry over into the next fiscal year July 1, 2015. The fund balance however has been whittled down from $413,937 in the 2011-12 fiscal year, with $166,113 in expenses that year and another $102,666 in expenses last year.

The Federal Communications Commission mandated that on April 1, 1998, wireless carriers were required to provide the public safety dispatchers the telephone number of originators of 911 calls, automatic location identification, and the location of the cell site or base station receiving the call. In 2008, commissioners voted to enter into a five-year contract with AT&T to install a new 911 system for the Beatty, Pahrump and Tonopah dispatch centers, which would cost $264,000 per year, since the centers weren’t able to process the 911 upgrades.

County commissioners put the property tax to fund the 911 system on the 1995 ballot.

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