December Editorial Winner

County Should Rescind Its Resolution

MIKE McCormick, The Shawnee News-Star

Even though there was no discussion on the issue during last week's county commission meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to call an election for February to raise fees on landlines.
Residents throughout Pottawatomie County, excluding those in Shawnee, will be asked to raise the percentage they are paying on telephone landlines to increase funding for 911 service.
The resolution approved, without discussion, calls for an election Feb. 12 to ask voters for a five percent increase in 911 tariff fees.
The county currently collects 10 percent of the landline telephone tariff rate for purposes of providing and operating 911 services. If passed, it would raise that to 15 percent.
The proposed hike has nothing to do with cell line 911 fees, which already have a fee of 5o cents per number.
Although there was no discussion among the three county commissioners during last week's meeting, this issue of wanting to raise the percentage reportedly has been talked about for several months in E-911 board meetings.
Obviously, there have been some discussions going on either with or among county commissioners outside of the commission meetings. It's disturbing commissioners didn't talk about this issue during last week's meeting.
Tommy Arnold, director of the Pottawatomie County E-911 Center, told our reporter Kim Morava last week that collected 911 fees have been declining because of decreases in landline phones.
"It's not just to provide additional funding, it's to make up funding we've lost," Arnold said of the proposal.
Other than needing to replace declining revenue and needing more money, no specific uses for the increased fees have been identified. Citizens should be asking how this will enhance E-911 service throughout the county and in addition to their paying more how will this improve the level of service now being provided.
Several months ago it was reported serious discussions about possibly merging local 911 centers had begun. That makes sense to consider pooling resources of the county's 911 and Shawnee's 911 centers.
It would seem if everyone were to get on the same page there would be a larger pool of funds which could be provided for one center rather than two, and that would bring more efficiency and streamline costs too.
We're not sure about the status of those discussions today.
Back in April it didn't appear there was any immediate emergency to move on the concept of a merger. However, it there may be some urgency now given the county commissioners have voted to call an election raising the fee for county residents who still have landlines.
We suggested eight months ago there was some urgency in moving along the discussions, but if that's happened it must have hit a snag somewhere.
If the county commissioners go ahead with the February election, there is little doubt the city of Shawnee may try to do something similar during 2013 as well. Shawnee residents currently pay three percent, and the maximum, which is what the county is wanting to raise their fee to, is 15 percent.
We suggest the county commissioners, if it's not too late, rescind last week's action and hold off on the election. Surely it can't be too late since they only passed the resolution last week in order to meet a Dec. 13 deadline for a Feb. 12 election.
If that can happen, then city and county officials need to get busy, hold serious discussions about merging 911 centers and then, if it's needed, call an election that county resident and Shawnee citizens have an opportunity to decide.
Otherwise, it's the citizens throughout the entire county, including Shawnee, that eventually will lose out