Changes coming for fees

PLYMOUTH — Beginning July 1, each person who pays a phone bill in the state of Indiana — whether it’s a landline or a cell phone — will pay 90 cents a month toward 911 dispatch services. The money will be collected by the state, then distributed to individual counties.
“We are guaranteed to receive no less than the average of our last three years’ fees,” said Marshall County auditor Penny Lukenbill in the county commissioners meeting Monday.
The state-wide change in the way 911 is funded, ordered by Governor Mitch Daniels March 21, was spurred by a decrease in landline usage, and therefore, a decrease in funds coming in to pay for emergency dispatch services.
Marshall County currently receives $1.53 each month per landline for 911 expenses, and only 50 cents a month for cell phones. Since more and more county residents are switching to exclusive cell phone use and discontinuing their landline phones, the county is receiving far less money to pay for 911 expenses.
In June 2011, Marshall County Sheriff Tom Chamberlin reported that the fees were not enough to pay dispatch employees (there are 11 dispatchers and one supervisor). In 2010, according to Chamberlin, the 911 department was short $18, 477.
Under the new arrangement, cell phones and landlines will be charged the same amount per month. Prepaid cell phones will be charged only 50 cents a month, which might be worrisome since Lukenbill reported that prepaid phones are the largest growing sector out of the three devices: landline phones, cell phones, and prepaid phones.
“It will be an interesting process — trying to get our money back when it goes downstate,” commented Commissioner Kevin Overmyer.
In other business, county commissioners unanimously moved to renew a contract for 911 service at the Marshall County Jail with CenturyLink.