County approves new 911 call fee

Contract work, licenses, technology cause need for hike

La Plata County residentsí monthly phone bills will likely increase by 60 cents beginning in 2013 to cover the rising costs of 911 emergency phone call services.

Currently, all phone users pay a 70-cent surcharge each month that covers the people, infrastructure and technology required to receive and respond to 911 emergency phone calls.

The Emergency Telephone Service Association of La Plata County on Tuesday approached the Board of County Commissioners to request support of a proposal to increase the surcharge to $1.30 each month. Commissioners approved the request.

The association needs the approval of five governments, including all the countyís municipalities, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the county commissioners, before it can recommend the rate increase to the Public Utilities Commission, which has the final say.

The association needs to increase rates to cover the rising cost of contract work, licenses and maintenance agreements. Also, the federal government is requiring 911 call centers to install new technology that allows them to receive text, photos and video, which costs even more money, said Troy Pring, a consultant working with the association.

At the same time, the associationís revenue is declining as more people cancel their landlines to use only cellphones or opt for pre-paid cellphone plans that donít include the 911 surcharge, Durango Police Chief Jim Spratlen said.

ecowan@durangoherald.com