COLUMBIANA COUNTY Telephone customers to begin paying charge to fund new 911 system

The goal of getting a new emergency system in place has hit a snag.
LISBON -- Telephone customers in Columbiana County will start paying a 50-cent monthly telephone charge April 1, though the new 911 system the payments will help fund has yet to clear a final hurdle.
Planners concluded Tuesday that, before the new 911 system can be implemented, an operations scheme for it must be devised and survive a previously unforeseen multistep approval process, county Commissioner Gary Williams said.
Should it fail, the new 911 system cannot be implemented, Williams added.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the 50-cent surcharge in November after being told their endorsement would clear the way for an improved 911 system to be activated in about two years from now.
The surcharge will produce about $270,000 annually to help start up and fund the new system.
Three steps involved
The time frame for getting it up and running remains fixed, as long as the state-mandated plan spelling out how the new system will operate is authorized. That involves three steps.
A public hearing must be held, followed by a vote on the plan by a three-member panel consisting of a county commissioner and the mayors of Salem and East Liverpool, the county's two largest cities. Final approval must come through votes by township, village and city governments representing at least 60 percent of the county's population.
The final step probably won't occur until fall, Williams said. He added, however, that he's confident the operating plan will be approved.
Williams said he doesn't want to postpone collecting the surcharge until the operations plan is adopted because it would stall start-up of the new 911 system.
"I just know that it won't fail," he said of the operations plan.
If it does, telephone customers will be reimbursed or credited for surcharge charges, he said.
Learned of requirement
It wasn't until Tuesday's meeting of 911 planners that they determined they must get the operations plan approved to meet state regulations, Williams said.
Previously, planners had mistakenly believed a 911 plan authorized in the late 1990s remained in place.
"We thought we were covered," Williams said.
They later learned the old plan is obsolete because it was attached to a 911 funding proposal that relied on property taxes for revenue, an idea that was spurned by voters, Williams explained.
A key provision of the operations plan will be determining what governmental agencies will answer 911 calls.
Planners have preliminarily decided calls will go to dispatchers at the county sheriff's office and to those in Salem, East Palestine, Columbiana and East Liverpool.