Legislature(2005 - 2006)BELTZ 211
02/15/2005 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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SB 100-ENHANCED 911 SURCHARGES CHAIR BUNDE announced SB 100 to be up for consideration. He asked if anyone objected to adopting CSSB 100(L&C), version Cook 2/11/05\Y. There were no objections. CHAIR BUNDE explained that there have been instances in Anchorage where life threatening and emergency situations could have been addressed in a timely fashion with a 911 call. The problem is increasing and local municipalities are required to provide this service, but at this point don't have an option to pay for it. SB 100 increases their ability to pay for the service by charging $2. It could be surmounted by a vote of the people in the effected area. 2:07:40 PM MS. LAUREN WICKERSHAM, staff to Senator Bunde, explained where the changes appear in the bill. The billing should be the same for wireless and wire line companies. 2:10:14 PM MR. GRAIG GOODRICH, Deputy Chief, Anchorage Police Department, supported passing SB 100 this year. He related that 50% of today's calls come through cell phones, but people are not often cognizant of their surroundings when placing an emergency call. When it's on a land line, the police can track it, but that is not the case with cell phones. The bill talks about all the surcharges going to the call-taking center and he suggested language saying that at least a portion of those funds go to the dispatch centers. In Anchorage the dispatch center is separate from a law enforcement or call-taking center. That is also the case in the Kenai Peninsula and other areas around the state, as well. 2:13:23 PM CHIEF WALT MONEGAN, Anchorage Police Department, supported SB 100 because it provides the flexibility for local government to justify realistic surcharge rates to maintain and operate 911 centers. Anchorage currently has a 50-cent surcharge. However, out of that 50-cents, 21-cents pays for addressing line fees for every one of the customers they serve for 911, about 316,000 lines. The department needs more money to actually provide a service. He said it receives about 250,000 calls per year and 58% of them are 911 calls. About half of those are coming from cells phones and the department does not have the ability to know the location on those. This amounts to about $800,000 a year for data base management; add on about $260,000 per year for infrastructure costs and the department has $3 million more a year for additional operating costs. That all adds up to about $4 million in enhanced operations and maintenance costs. The 50 cents generates about $2 million. The rest of the cost is borne by taxpayers. 2:17:47 PM CHAIR BUNDE asked if raising the cap to $2 will allow enough flexibility to address the costs of enhanced 911 for a couple of years. CHIEF MONEGAN replied that is correct. He anticipated raising it by $1 at first. 2:19:19 PM MS. ERIN KALWARA, Public Safety Assistance Coordinator, Juneau Police Department, said she administers the 911 program and supports the changes. She doubted that $2 would hold the department for more than five years. She had no idea what technologies will develop in the future and thought a $3 fee would be needed. 2:21:12 PM MR. TIM ROGERS, Alaska Municipal League, supported SB 100. The enhanced system would allow the call takers to see the address of the originating caller. Passage of the increase in the surcharge is needed to help the continual upgrade of the 911 system and help in the development of address databases to avoid untimely response delays. Also, several of the funds for upgrading 911 systems have disappeared in the last couple of years. MR. ROGERS suggested a couple of amendments. Existing statutes have a differential rate for cities with a population under 100,000 and maintaining the differential will allow smaller communities to charge in excess of $2. He also would prefer that the election provision on page 2, lines 8-9, be eliminated for two reasons. One, if the authorized surcharge change is proposed, municipalities don't anticipate the additional authority needs in the foreseeable future and secondly, and probably more important, is it would set the possible precedent for elections on user fee increases. That is of concern to us. It may also be a poor precedent for a future state fee increase, as well, and we think it's best to avoid that if at all possible. 2:25:18 PM MR. DAVID TYLER, supported SB 100. But the $2 limit would impact Fairbanks, because it won't last long. Their local public process allows them to govern themselves when setting fees. He also has concerns with the time constraints and costs associated with the voting requirements. 2:26:59 PM MR. PAUL HARRIS, Director, Fairbanks Police Department, supported SB 100, but he wanted other issues to be addressed. He gave the committee an example of how cell phones enhance the 911 system. He also noted that the $2 would barely cover the technology and maintenance since a good amount of the money goes back to the telephone companies to pay for trunk lines. Often people don't change their addresses when they change their phone numbers and the master street address database needs to be updated. On the receiving end of the call, someone who can deal with an emergency experience must be trained to respond properly. He supported a $3 cap as being more realistic. 2:31:07 PM MR. CHUCK KOPP, Kenai Chief of Police, said he also represented the Alaska Chapter of the National Emergency Numbers Association. He saw this bill as an ongoing solution to a growing problem. Public expectation is rising for emergency services such as reduced response time. He thought the $2 cap would give all municipalities more flexibility than they have now. Technology is moving faster than the state department can respond. 2:34:14 PM CHAIR BUNDE asked if he thought the 100,000 population differential would impact Kenai. MR. KOPP replied that there are 50,000 people in the Kenai Borough and it definitely would impact it. 2:35:14 PM MR. JIM ROWE, Executive Director, Alaska Telephone Association (ATA), supported a non-voter-approved cap of $2 - recognizing the individual municipalities could exceed that cap through an election. He was concerned that the surcharge would raise the local phone bills that already have a number of surcharges. SB 100, however, is concise and addresses many needs. It's important to ATA that there is parity between wireless and hard- wired surcharges. 2:38:04 PM MS. LINDA FREED, Manager, City of Kodiak, supported SB 100. Her dispatch system is budgeted this year at about $600,000 and about $50,000 will come in from the enhanced 911 surcharge. Right now the gap is being made up from their general fund. She supported the increased cap, but also strongly believed in local control and local option and encouraged the committee to consider that a little more strongly in the bill. Kodiak has a strong public process and would like to see an expansion of the use of the funds - lines 18 and 19. That has been interpreted to mean just the 911 portion of their dispatch. Emergency 911 calls are crisis calls that come into the center, but without responders to send out, there is very little use for the technology. She would like to use the funds to help pay for the additional dispatch costs. For example, Kodiak operates a regional dispatch service for the entire road system and provides services for many agencies. This would give the city the ability to raise the charge and provide funds that would operate the entire dispatch system, which is not only city, fire and police, but public works crews, the Coast Guard and State Troopers. Right now the surcharge brings in less than 10% of its annual operating cost, not including capital equipment, replacement costs for E911 and the dispatch center. 2:41:57 PM CHAIR BUNDE thanked her for her compromise and said he would hold the bill for further work. He adjourned the meeting at 2:42:41 PM.