ELKO – Elko City Council voted this week to send a letter to Elko County Commissioners urging them to approve a $1 surcharge on phone bills for future updates and costs of the Next Generation 911 system that is already operating in the county.
The current surcharge is 25 cents, but Elko Police Chief Ty Trouten said the surcharge “needs to be bumped up all the way to $1” to pay for a new computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system and for maintenance of the NextGen system. He said the CAD system must be replaced in two years.
“We’re not to the point of generating funds and procuring anything,” said Trouten, who is on the Elko County Enhanced 911 Board.
City Councilman Bill Hance, who has been involved in the 911 upgrade effort, said the $1 surcharge is “still behind the curve,” but he recommended the council support the increase. Only Hance, Mayor Reece Keener and Councilman Chip Stone were present Tuesday, and they all approved the support letter.
Elko County Commissioners must approve the $1 surcharge, which is the maximum allowed under current state law and is recommended in the five-year plan prepared earlier this year by the 911 consulting firm Winbourne.
“Without an increase in the 911 surcharge revenue, Elko County cannot fully fund the current committed expenses to maintain 911 in Elko County beyond 2024,” stated the firm.
County commissioners have not scheduled any vote on the surcharge, however.
“It is my understanding that the county commission is not interested in raising the 911 surcharge at this point in time. If it were to be considered, it would be placed on an agenda in 2021,” Elko County Assistant Manager and Chief Financial Officer Cash Minor said Wednesday.
Elko County Commissioners approved the five-year plan at their Oct. 21 meeting, with the exceptions of a recommendation that the county establish an emergency services department and a recommendation for new job positions.
“That’s just not in the cards,” Trouten said of those two proposals.
Trouten said Wednesday that COVID-19 delayed the 911 board’s presentation of the five-year plan to county commissioners. The 911 board saw the plan drafted by Winbourne Consulting LLC back in March and voted then to ask the county to approve a $1 surcharge.
Cash Minor’s report on 911 funding as of Nov. 3 shows that to date revenue over expenditures totals $328,692, with total revenue since the start in 2016 totaling nearly $1.01 million and expenditures $680,807. The revenue includes surcharge fees, donations and grants.
The county received a $313,500 federal grant for Elko and West Wendover 911 dispatch centers, and Duck Valley Indian Reservation received $118,500 from the federal government for the Owyhee dispatch center.
Minor’s report also shows surcharge collections to date totaled $489,766. He prepared the report for the 911 board’s meeting earlier this month, but that meeting was canceled due to a lack of quorum.
Minor said back in March that the current surcharge brings in roughly $150,000 a year, while a $1 surcharge would bring in about $600,000 annually.
Although a decision on a hike in the surcharge is up to the county commissioners, Elko City Manager Curtis Calder, speaking as chairman of the Central Dispatch Administrative Authority, said the city could end up with added dispatch expenses if there is no surcharge hike.
Meanwhile, the Next Generation 911 system that has been in place since May is providing much more information on 911 calls that come into the dispatch centers at Elko, West Wendover and Owyhee, Trouten said during his presentation to the council.
The Next Generation 911 system replaces outdate technology from the 1960s and is compatible with the wireless world of today. The cloud-based system boosts emergency response times and helps dispatchers locate where calls originate.
Trouten told the council that federal funding for 911 is slowed because Nevada is only one of two states that don’t have a statewide 911 coordinator. He said there is also a stumbling block on surcharges because such charges miss prepaid phones, and hotels only pay for a certain number of lines in their facilities.