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Push for fair share of 911 funding statewide

Posted at 11:39 PM, Oct 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-11 23:39:14-04

There's a new push from sheriffs across the state to get their fair share of state funding for 911 services. All cell phone contracts require you to pay a $1.20 surcharge. But, first responders said they only get a fraction of the multi-million dollar pot, and that could put you at risk if they can't afford necessary upgrades.

Many won't soon forget when the High Tread International tire recycling plant in Lockport went up in flames in early August. Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour said thankfully, they were equipped to handle all the calls for help. “We got a lot of 911 calls. But, we weren't overwhelmed to the point where we couldn't handle them. The technology we have today is today's technology.”

But, there's growing concern over future emergencies. The federal government will soon be mandating "next generation 911." It’s a system that will require massive upgrades.

“Those systems will allow people to text to 911. They'll allow video to be sent to 911. Video in the Lockport fire could have been very critical for us to see where it was burning and where to position firefighters,” Voutour said.
 
The state’s cell phone 911 surcharge amounts to $185 million a year. But, 911 centers across the state are seeing less than half of that money: roughly $75 million of the pot. The rest is tossed into the state's general fund and Voutour said it just isn't worth the price of public safety. “All we're asking for a fair distribution of the money when it comes in. It's intent is for 911. Spend it on 911. That's all we're asking.”