Gov. Justice pulls 911 fee bill after counties express concerns about cuts

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice pulls a proposed 911 fee bill after counties express concerns a reduction in the fee would hurt emergency services. (MGN Online/Pexels)

With some counties expressing concerns that a proposed bill to lower 911 fees would hurt emergency operations, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has decided to pull the bill from consideration.

"Considering all this input, I have decided to pull the bill,” Justice said in a news release Monday. “This will shield the counties from any possible harm until all parties have a better understanding."

The bill introduced in the state Senate aimed to lower 911 subscriber fees, decreasing funding to 911 centers by 11 percent. Justice said Senate Bill 29 would have modified the wireless enhanced 911 fee to ensure compliance with federal FCC regulations.

“After extensive meetings and listening, it became very clear that my intent for Senate Bill 289 was not being properly communicated. I have never wanted a dime taken away from our 911 centers or our counties,” the governor said.

Justice said West Virginia was advised that it was out of compliance by the FCC due to diverting funds to non-911 related expenditures and that it was jeopardizing future FCC grants to the state.

“We have explored protecting all our counties and keeping them 100 percent whole by funding all these dollars through general revenue,” he said.

The governor said he met with Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, Dean Meadows, director of the Wyoming County 911, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and Sen. Paul Hardesty, D-Logan, about the 911 fee issue.

Justice said his staff also met with Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, to look at forming an exploratory committee to ensure a best solution is found on the 911 fee issue.

In a previous Eyewitness News story, the director of Jackson County 911, Montana Boggess said that the bill would take nearly $86,000 from the agency’s yearly budget. If the bill would pass, Boggess said, two dispatchers would lose their jobs in Jackson County. One person would be responsible for taking all emergency calls for the entire county.

Kanawha County commissioners said in a news release Monday that while the intention of the bill was to stop diversion of funds from non-911 related programs, the bill was going to reduce funding for the 911 centers.

The commissioners said Justice “listened to the concerns from the first responder community, specifically 911 telecommunicators and determined that SB 289 needed to be pulled in order to protect the funding for 911 centers."

“I would like to commend the governor for listening to the concerns raised by our telecomunicators and 911 centers regarding this bill,” Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said. “He acted quickly to ensure the funding for 911 centers would stay intact. We look forward to working with the governor for a permanent solution that will allow public safety answering points to be fully funded.”

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