Proposed bill would force counties, cities to split 911 fees fairly

The 911 fees you pay each month for your cell phone may not be going to your city’s 911 center.

Instead, some county dispatches are keeping all that money.

One state lawmaker’s proposed law would change that. Some city police chiefs who run separate 911 centers from their counties are watching to see what happens.

Rushville Police Chief Craig Tucker is one of them.

We caught him as he worked the phones on a Sunday afternoon, short-staffed for the moment as he waits for his newest full-time hire starts.

He’s looking for ways to better retain his hires and believes pay and better training will be the cornerstones of his strategy.

This past year the Rush County sheriff granted his request to access some of the county’s 911 funding.

Although he and the sheriff have a good relationship, he says the process to access part of the 911 cell phone fees Rushville residents pay every month was cumbersome.

Instead of the numerous meetings he had to work through, he’d like to see a more streamlined process that more consistently gave them a fairer shake of the fees.

“For us to have stabilized access to the funding in that fund, gives us the ability to better equip, better train and better pay the people that we have in our 911 answering point,” said Tucker.

There may soon be a standardized statewide process for this, thanks to Rushville’s local state senator, Jean Leising.

“Three of my counties have more than one PSAP,” said Leising. “They feel like they answer, for them, a fairly large amount of calls, and they’re not getting the money that they think they should.”

Nearly two dozen Indiana counties have more than one 911 call center. Twenty-three million dollars goes to those counties to help fund their dispatches.

They’ve all had to figure out how to navigate splitting the pot, but the senator’s bill would take away the guesswork.

“I do think that it would be a much more fair way of handling the situation,” said Leising.

If the bill becomes law, each 911 center would get a proportion of their county’s money equal to the proportion of calls they take.

For some, including Marion County, this is already policy. But for many, 911 centers like Rushville’s would get yearly access to a significant amount of money.

“It’s not just law enforcement that stands to benefit from this,” said Tucker. “It’s all the emergency service agencies that can get better information faster through better-trained individuals that are well-qualified to do their jobs.”

The bill still has to be heard and passed in committee and get through both the House and Senate in the General Assembly.