With the FCC requiring wireless telephone companies to enable customers to call 911 by text, and 911 centers to install computer equipment capable of handling text calls, counties around the nation are scrambling to find, purchase and install the necessary equipment.
Upson County is no different. Sheriff Dan Kilgore said while he has his doubts as to the need of the equipment, the county is in the process of acquiring it.
“The next phase of 911 is the ability to receive text messages. The law says that is what the requirement will be, and we’re certainly going to comply with it,” said Kilgore. “It remains to be seen (if it will help). I don’t how many people will actually text a message in to us. But we’re in the process of shopping for equipment, and I anticipate that to be done by the end of the summer. Once we get to that point, we’ll be able to comply with that requirement.”
The Thomaston Times did a poll on Facebook, asking readers their opinions on the need to be able to text to 911. Responses were 3 to 1 in favor of the service, with April Bunn summing up the majority opinion:
“Yes, when thinking about a possible kidnapping victim that needs to contact authorities, texting may help them contact them without giving away what they are doing. I can think of other examples as well, but this gives the idea.”
Although he has not had the opportunity to see how the new systems will fully operate, Carl McKinney, E-911 Director for Upson County, thinks the new equipment could be beneficial. However, he feels the federal government mandating each E-911 center change to the “next generation” technology is placing a burden on some communities when it comes to funding the equipment.
“I really don’t have a problem with it,” said McKinney, “but I do think it’s hard on the smaller counties because that equipment is not cheap. Most of them now are up above $300,000 (in cost) and some are $400,000. We have already received bids (for the new equipment) and are planning to go to some of the closest E-911 centers that have the equipment so we can see how it works.”
Upson County Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston agreed with McKinney that being made to purchase the new equipment does put a financial strain on the county. He noted the Board of Commissioners is still trying to figure out where the funding will come from exactly.
“We have got to figure out how exactly it will be funded,” said Blackston. “Right now the 911 account probably does not have enough money in it to buy the parts and the equipment. The funding may have to come out of the general fund or we could possibly borrow the money through the Office Building Authority. However, the last thing I want to do is raise taxes to pay for it, that’s for sure.”