Some suggest surcharge increase for emergency calls

By Gary Brode |

Published 02/19 2014 06:11PM

Updated 02/19 2014 06:22PM

URBANA -- Mayor Laurel Prussing is pushing for new legislation when it comes to 911 calls. How people call for help has changed, but the law has not. A charge on a land-line helps pay for the emergency service, but the charge to a cell phone is much less. WCIA-3's Gary Brode has details.

Not enough money is coming in. The 911 surcharge in Chicago is $2.50. Everywhere else 9in the state it's $1.50 for land lines, but it's only $0.73 for cell phone calls. Some say it's time for a change.

To get help, you call 911. But, you may not know it's cheaper to call from a cell phone.

"The system was built on wire lines years ago before wireless even existed. So it was built on a system that no longer exists. Most people have cell phones and some even have two."

Mayor Prussing is calling on lawmakers to change the rules. She wants the cell phone surcharge to be as much as a land line.

"Just let everyone pay the same rate because everyone gets the same service."

It's for that reason METCAD needs to increase its rates and extra $127,000. It's something Urbana simply cannot afford.

"It's reached a crisis level."

The dispatch center has lost $2.1 million over the last five years. The surcharge increase would make that up in one year. It's something which would really help the dispatch center and the cities it serves.

"When the replacement plan calls for a five-year replacement, then in five years I want to replace my equipment, I don't want to push it out ten or fifteen years because we can't afford a failure."

Last year, Urbana paid nearly $500,000 for METCAD services. The mayor expects a bill to be written soon and brought up in the veto session in November.

The FCC knows how big a problem 911 funding is. It put together a task force to find a solution. It looked at the cost of 911 and how different cities and states pay for it. It found each 911 agency in Illinois needs at least $450,000/year to operate.

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