By BEN KLEIN
The state Public Utilities Commission has reauthorized the $1.50 telephone charge that Warren County residents pay for the local 911 system.
Warren County did not request a change to the current contribution rate of $1.50 per telephone line per month. According to the PUC, the county's 911 service has a population of approximately 41,815 and is served by Verizon Pennsylvania LLC, Verizon North LLC, Windstream Pennsylvania LLC and other carriers.
The Public Safety Emergency Telephone Act of 1990 provides for a statewide 911 emergency communication system to be administered by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. The law allows the counties to recover the cost for 911 systems by accessing a fee on every telephone line.
Fees for hardlines are collected by providers and put directly into a special account accessed by the county, Warren County Public Safety Director Todd Lake said.
Cellphone fees are a $1 per user per month and is collected by the commonwealth.
The county is only able to ask for the percentage of the total number of 911 cellphone calls made that year.
There were 14,715 incoming 911 calls last year 8,287 from hardlines and 6,428 from cellphones, Lake said.
The 911 center is then allowed to only ask for the 43 percent, determined by the percentage of cellphone calls, in funding for approved items such as wages, benefits and office equipment, Lake said.
The problem is "there's more need than there is money," Lake said of the wireless funding distribution.
"Our line counts have been dropping. People are dropping their phones, hardlines, home phones," Lake said. "Every time somebody eliminates their hardline home phone we lose that $1.50 per house per landline."
The $1.50 surcharge is a tri-annual plan, and Lake estimates the county has lost about $80,000 a year for the past six to nine years.
"We asked for wireless money through the state yearly," he said, adding that in March "we'll put in a new application for requests."