Residents to pay more for 911 service

Amie Rose THE DAILY HERALD


Residents of 16 cities and unincorporated Utah County will pay 12 cents more for 911 service every month so police and rescue crews can find 911 cell phone callers.

People will see the increase from 53 cents to 65 cents on their phone bills, including wireless bills, starting July 1. The county provides 911 service for American Fork, Spanish Fork, Lehi, Payson, Santaquin, Salem, Genola, Goshen, Alpine, Woodland Hills, Highland, Elk Ridge, Cedar Fort, Cedar Hills, Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs. Other cities in Utah County either have their own dispatch center or contract with another city's dispatch center.

Utah County commissioners approved the increase Tuesday, so they can eventually buy the equipment needed to track cell phone callers.

"We can't determine where wireless calls come from without the equipment," said Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy.

The federal government has set a 2006 deadline for dispatch centers to have the cell phone-locating equipment. The county dispatch center already has equipment to locate callers from regular phone lines.

The state Legislature passed a bill earlier this year to allow 911 providers to increase the surcharges from 53 cents to 65 cents, said Utah County Commissioner Steve White.

The bill required 911 providers to implement the entire 12 cent increase, or no increase at all, Tracy said. Utah County has sent the required intent-to-increase letter to the state Tax Commission so it can increase the tax starting July 1. Phone companies send the collected surcharge money to the state Tax Commission, which then sends it to local governments.

Tracy said his office is already studying what kind of equipment it needs, what it will cost and how much money the county will have to buy it. He hopes to have the equipment in place next year. He doesn't know how much money the county will collect from the 12 cent increase.

According to the county's 2004 budget, it expects to collect $606,398 in 911 surcharges this year. It collected $603,964 last year.

The equipment will allow dispatchers to send emergency personnel to a cell phone caller's exact location, even if callers don't know where they are, Tracy said.