9-1-1 Emergency… Can You Wait Please?

17 Sep

“The Constitution of the State of West Virginia provides certain powers to the County Commission, but these powers are limited to “the manner prescribed by law”. This means that the County Commissions’ powers must be expressly conferred by the Constitution or by acts of the Legislature.”

This line above is the first line stated under the ‘Duties and Responsibilities’ section on the Monongalia County Commission webpage. The two words that boldly stick out from the page to me are Limited Power.  It is described farther down on the webpage that the County Commission truly doesn’t get a large amount of power in their own counties so when it comes to things like funding for emergency responders, they have to try to find innovative ways to fund themselves separate from federal and state income funding.

On Tuesday, September 16, 2015, I attended the 10:00 a.m. Monongalia County Commissions meeting.  The hot topic of the day: A motion by Commissioner Tom Bloom to establish a steering committee to deal with the declining revenues coming into emergency management.  As I sat there listening to the commissioners discuss this in their politically correct terms I knew the gist of what they were discussing but I wanted to know more, so I decided to interview Commissioner, and lawyer, Eldon A. Callen.

My interview with Callen was nothing short of impressive.  He discussed the influx of a large student population and directed me through the problem in everyday language (basically he took out the big lawyer words and spoke to me on a commissioner to college student level.)  According to Callen, landlines used to have a built in fee that would go directly to emergency management funding, but with the lack of landlines in homes today, the funding had to come from some where else.

When cell phones began becoming the main sources of phones and landlines began diminishing, the federal government decided to put a fee on cell phone bills every month that would go to the state of residency from each phone owner for the emergency funding.  The problem in Morgantown however, is that West Virginia University is a big school, but a large portion of our students aren’t from the state of West Virginia.  With that being said, all of the emergency funds fees from these people go out of state to New Jersey, Virginia, or whatever other state these students came from.

Because of this lack of funding, students and citizens of Monongalia County are having to wait extensive amounts of time to be attended to after calling 9-1-1.  In fact, so far every month in 2015, emergency services had more calls coming in then they could respond to due to the shortage in funding and the lack of manpower.

Commissioner Callen said that he wants to come up with some type of plan whether it be a large event fee or a higher education fee so that the emergency services needed in Morgantown can be ready and able to help the public when in need.  He said this problem began 2-3 years ago and is only increasing so now is the time to do something to fix it. Callen says:

“I want to make this steering committee so that we can sit down and work something out fairly and in such a way that people are confident that every penny they put into his goes directly to emergency services that could help them.  I have no doubt that students would be against a higher education fee, likewise the population be against a small large event fee if this means that we can get them sufficient help when they need it.”

I for one, being a student of West Virginia University, am 100% behind paying a small raise in tuition for the ‘higher education fee’ if that means when I’m in trouble, I know that a police man, firefighter, EMT or any other emergency responder will be able to be there for me when I need them.

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