Voters heading to the polls Nov. 5 will have the opportunity to either oppose or support two ordinances that have been debated issues in Fulton County.
\Ordinance No. 2001-12 states: An ordinance setting the date of an election to amend Ordinance 1992-13 which implemented the 9-1-1 emergency telephone system to provide for an increase in the emergency telephone service charge to 12-percent of the basic telephone tariff rate approved by the Arkansas Public Service Commission and other purposes.
Ordinance 2002-14 states: An ordinance setting the date of an election to submit to the electors of Fulton County the question of whether to levy a one-half of one-percent (0.5 percent) countywide sales and use tax pursuant to Act 991 of 1981, as amended for the purpose of funding fire protection facilities for the various fire departments in Fulton County.
If the electors approve the adoption of one-half of 1 percent sales and use tax within Fulton County the county will begin levying the sales and use tax on Jan. 1, 2003.
Both issues have been debated during Fulton County Quorum Court meetings.
David Keck, Fulton County 9-1-1 coordinator, said residents currently are able to use the basic 9-1-1 system. With the basic service callers can dial 9-1-1 which rings in the sheriff's office. However, this service does not provide for the location of the caller so dispatchers have no way of knowing the caller's location. Nor does it provide for a corresponding map display to help route the emergency services to the emergency. Another point to be considered is the caller may get a busy signal because there is only one line for the basic 9-1-1 service, Keck said.
If voters support the enhanced 9-1-1 system it would provide the location information from the call to the sheriff's office. Before the dispatcher even answers the call a screen displays the name and address, the appropriate fire, law enforcement or ambulance service that would respond in the area.
A second screen displays a map of the location and route for the responders.
Current funding for the basic 9-1-1 is at a rate of 5 percent which amounts to 73 cents a month on the phone bill, Keck said. But to fund the enhanced 9-1-1 the rate would increase to 12-percent, totaling $1.74 per month, which is an increase of approximately $1, he explained.
The added revenue will be used to employ and train three full-time and two part-time dispatchers.
Keck said presently there are occasions when only one employee is available to answer emergency calls and dispatch the emergency responder.
"A good call taker is a good multi-tasker. There is no doubt about that, but there is only so much we can expect from one person. We are fortunate to have the experienced and efficient call takers that we do here in Fulton County. They need some more help. One person on a shift is not enough to ensure that you get the best possible service when you dial 9-1-1," Keck said.
A vote against the increase will not affect what is already implemented, the basic service. Callers will still be able to dial 9-1-1, although a busy signal is a possibility, he explained.
"Myself, I will be voting for the increase. I don't want to hear a busy signal when my house is on fire or my child needs an ambulance. I want to know that someone at the other end of that phone will answer and has the resources at hand to get me the help I need," he said.
Keck said he also plans to support the adoption of the one-half of 1 percent sales and use tax within Fulton County for fire protection facilities.
Scott Holloway, chief of the Morriston Fire Department, made an appeal in June to quorum court members saying rural fire departments are faced with an age-old problem of inadequate funding.
Holloway and other fire chiefs have conducted public meetings in support of the proposed tax. The tax will be used exclusively to maintain and operate the local fire departments, said Fire Chief Ken Sanders.
The tax receipts would be evenly divided among the fire departments in the county. If the tax is approved each department would receive $10,000 to $13,000, Sanders explained.
The following fire departments would receive revenue from the tax: Sturkie, Camp, Byron, Viola, Salem, Mammoth Spring, Gepp, Nine Mile Ridge, Saddle, Agnos-Glencoe-Heart and Morriston.