Phone bills could increase to fund 911 centers

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DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. -- People could soon be paying more for their cell phone. The current $1.00 911 surcharge fee could be increased by 65 cents.

“It is high already as it is but, I wouldn’t mind,” said Dallas Hilbert of York.

Hilbert added, “I mean if I was in a very scary situation I would be really scared; I’d be flipping out if I couldn’t reach 911”.

“It’s not like a big charge if you can get better to 911 and help so I would be willing to,” said Brynne Godfrey, of York.

Stephen Libhart, the Director of Emergency Management and 911 for Dauphin County says current fees have been in place since 1990. The amounts vary. For wireless customers there is a $1.00 charge. When it comes to landlines, fees are between $1.00 and $1.50.

The State Senate recently passed a bill that would increase all fees to $1.65 per line, per month. Counties could impose an additional fee of $52.00 per household.

“Technology is always rapidly bettering for the most part, but you know there are far more expenses related with that,” said Libhart.

In Dauphin County alone, the 911 center fields over 1,000 calls a day.

“Your system has to be able to identify where that call is coming from so it goes to the right location,” said Libhart.

“Under the new bill, the 911 fund, as it will be established and referred to would then be distributed by a mathematical formula,” he said.

The money would assist with the funding shortfall and ensure centers are able to assist people as quickly and efficiently as possible.  The money has to be used strictly for 911 operations.

“Whether it comes from one fund or another sooner or later an individual is going to pay for it in one capacity or not,” Libhart noted.

Now that the state Senate has approved the surcharge fee increase, Libhart hopes the House makes a decision before July 1. The current surcharge fees run out on June 30.