A proposal to implement an enhanced 9-1-1 system in Izard County will be decided Nov. 2 by voters. The Izard County Quorum Court unanimously approved an ordinance Sept. 7 to place the issue on the November ballot.
The measure would increase Izard County residents' phone taxes by $1.92 per month, per phone line.
Izard County Judge Eddie Cooper said the quorum court decided the current 9-1-1 system needs revamping. He said the system in place is antiquated by modern standards and lives would be saved if the 9-1-1 system were enhanced.
Cooper said when a person calls 9-1-1 the caller is connected with a dispatcher at the sheriff's department. If the caller becomes incapacitated, it can be difficult for the dispatcher to locate the caller, he said.
The new system would immediately give emergency response personnel the longitude and latitude from which a call originated. "This will save emergency people lots of time when they respond to calls," said Cooper.
Izard and Fulton Counties are two of the four counties in the state that do not have enhanced 9-1-1.
Fulton County Judge Curren Everett said Fulton County tried to acquire an enhanced 9-1-1 system, but the county couldn't afford it.
Cooper said eight other counties have passed measures to institute enhanced 9-1-1, but as of yet they haven't implemented the measure. He said the main reason is money.
"It will take two or three years to raise the money to implement the system if voters approve it," Cooper said.
The enhanced 9-1-1 system will cost $1.5 million to start up, Cooper said.
If Izard County voters approve the measure the county would be eligible for federal grants for an enhanced 9-1-1 program. According to federal regulations, a county must have a funding mechanism in place before grants can be allotted, JP Rayburn Finley said.
Cooper said Izard County residents who have a cell phone pay a 50-cent tax every month for enhanced 9-1-1 service. He said because the county doesn't have enhanced 9-1-1 the money taken is given to other counties. Izard County residents loose approximately $12,000 a year that would otherwise come into the county, he said.
In 2001 the Arkansas Legislature passed a resolution allowing a surcharge tax on all cell phone customers to assist in enhanced 9-1-1 funding.
Implementation of the program will have other benefits, Cooper said. He said all houses in the county will receive a physical address, and all roads, lanes and trails will be named.
Finley said an enhanced 9-1-1 system would lower property owners' insurance ratings.
"Fire code ratings would go down. A person living in an area were the fire insurance fire code is a seven might go to a six and that would save the person $50 a year," Finley said.
Cooper said in addition to these benefits, the sheriff's office would have a specially trained 9-1-1 dispatcher to work the new system.
"This will be a good deal for people," Cooper said.