MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - New legislation could leave Shelby County 9-1-1 dead in its tracks. The County's spent millions of dollars to prepare for a new statewide system to incorporate modern technology. Now a Senate Bill is proposing to cut the state's funding by 80 percent, which means no new system and a lot of wasted money.
Every month $1 from every cell phone bill goes to the state 9-1-1 board. 25 percent of that goes to individual districts, but the bulk, 75 percent, goes to the state. The new bill nearly flip-flops those amounts.
The Director of Shelby County Emergency Communications, Raymond Chiozza, says, "Their revenue would be cut from 75 percent of that dollar to 15 percent of that dollar. Which in essence means the programs of creating the state 9-1-1 network would probably have to cease."
Chiozza says Shelby County's been taking steps to prepare for the statewide network and the County's spent millions of dollars in the process. "We're getting ready to sign a contract for $4.4 mil for the whole County to be mapped, and addressed, we have funding for computer dispatch systems for every 9-1-1 call center in Shelby County. Those call systems will run $18-22 mil."
The state is working to change individual districts to one digital network. It would allow text messages, photos, videos, and could transfer calls to any 9-1-1 center in the state.
Teresa Wilson, with DeafConnect of the Mid-South says hearing impaired citizens have been waiting for the state network and text messaging for a long time. "9-1-1 is a governmental agency," Wilson explains, "Governmental agencies are supposed to have equal access for all individuals. That truly takes it away and when you look at an emergency situation and you are losing the ability of a group of individuals to make that contact, I think it puts the government agency in a very precarious situation."
Under the bill, 85 percent of the collected money would go to individual 9-1-1 districts. However, Chiozza, the director of one of the largest districts in the state says, in the long run if the state doesn't have the money to create the network, the counties lose. "We've been working on us for two years and we have a lot of money invested and if this takes place it's like we spent a lot of money for nothing. A whole network connection is going to be gone because the state board won't have the money to complete the network or sustain it."
State Senator Todd Gardenhire from Chattanooga proposed the bill. He could not be reached for comment.