911 fee doubled, officials consider more rule changes

by Kate Shunney

Morgan County Commissioners will discuss today, Wednesday, September 4, whether they want to make further changes to the county’s E-911 fee ordinance.

Commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday, August 21, to double the fee from $2.50 per month to $5.00 per month. The fee hasn’t been raised since 1998, when it was put into effect to create the county’s E-911 center and fund its 24-hour operation.

The fee change is to be implemented by phone companies by October 1. Phone customers should see the new fee on that month’s bill.

Last Monday, County Administrator Stefanie Allemong told The Morgan Messenger that county officials were asked by their legal counsel to make further changes to the E-911 ordinance.

Any changes to the ordinance require that the County Commission hold a public hearing prior to a vote on those changes.

The county held a public hearing on July 30 about raising the 911 landline fee to $5.00, then voted to approve that change on August 21.

Under West Virginia law, the county must provide a 30-day notice to the public that they intend to change the ordinance. Their vote on August 21 only applied to the fee level and eliminated references to specific phone service companies.

Commissioners will discuss possible changes to the E-911 fee ordinance at their meeting set for today, Wednesday,September 4.

Higher fee to pay for upgrades

The county held one public hearing before adopting the increased fee. During the July hearing, a handful of residents said they support planned upgrades to Morgan County’s 911 center equipment and facility. Others urged county officials to plan ahead for future equipment needs, rather than raising the fee so much to cover overdue upgrades.

Previously, Commission President Joel Tuttle said county officials would discuss the budget for new 911 center technology equipment and determine how much the county would raise the 911 fee to cover those expenses.

Last Wednesday after the fee hike vote, Tuttle said the county was still determining what equipment is needed for the 911 center and how much it will cost.

On August 7, the commission approved a $15,000 contract with a technology consultant to design and oversee upgrades to the 911 center.

During the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the county collected $161,882 in 911 landline fees, according to the County Clerk’s office.