City misleads about money for E911

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Dear Editor,

Thanks to the NLJ for giving us the details of the 27 March meeting between representatives from Newcastle and the County to discuss cost sharing for law enforcement center operations and upkeep (“City, county meet to discuss law enforcement center, April 5, 2018, page one).  

One item that caught my eye was the statement by Mayor Piana that the city had not received monies from the county for operation and upkeep of the Enhanced 911 (E911) System; along with other comments that indicated that the city alone bore the cost of installing and later updating the system.  

That is completely false. Every quarter the county forwards to the city the revenues from a County E911 tax assessed monthly on every phone in the County. I know for a fact that the initial upgrade to E911 was paid for only with County E911 tax revenues with some additional help from a County Homeland Security Grant. No city funds were used.

I would guess that those same tax revenues were used to pay for the recent upgrade to the system, as well as the monthly cost of trunk communication lines. From 2012 to 2016 the county gave the city an average of $64,800 annually. For some reason there was an uptick of tax revenues in 2017, and the city received $82,700 from the county.  

How do I know this? While I was the County Emergency Coordinator from 2006 to 2015, I regularly tracked these revenues because they were key to implementing and maintaining the E911 System. I briefed the County Commission many times on the existence of these revenues and how they were being used.  

I will give Mayor Piana the benefit of the doubt because it is the city which ultimately holds these revenues and cuts the checks; however, the source of those revenues is the county and the local citizens who pay that tax on their phones, whether they live in Newcastle, Upton, or out in the County.  

I would also suggest that the NLJ dig a bit deeper on the stories they publish, and not take the word of public officials as gospel.

   —Doug Jorrey

LTC, USA (ret.)

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