HONESDALE – The Wayne County Commissioners have joined the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) in its efforts to amend Chapter 53 of Title 35 relating to Emergency Telephone Services.
The legislation is part of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statues and is the former Public Safety Emergency Telephone Act 78 of 1990.
According to a resolution signed by the commissioners, the act gave county government “responsibility for implementing and managing a system of 911 call taking on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth.”
Features include the following:
• Setting in place planning processes
• Having lines of authority between counties and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA)
• Having a funding stream based on telephone subscriber surcharges
“Under the counties' stewardship, Pennsylvania's 911 system is one of the best managed and up-to-date systems in the nation,” stated the resolution.
Chief Clerk Vicky Botjer said one of the features is a locator system for wireline, wireless and voiceover IP calls.
“It's difficult to monitor,” she said. “Not everybody is registered.”
With its system, Pennsylvania has almost complete E-911 (enhanced) coverage, the fewest Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) per capita among larger states and a commitment towards Next Generation 911 (NG911) technologies.
The current subscriber fee ranges from $1 to $1.50 a month per wireline and $1 a month for wireless and VoIP. The fees haven't change since the act was implemented in 1990.
Botjer said an issue is funding has been dwindling over the years.
According to the county's resolution, the funding stream is having trouble keeping pace with the needs of the counties, forcing them to relay “both heavily and increasingly on the property tax and the June 30, 2015 sunset of one key funding source and the wireless telephone surcharge.”
Counties upgraded their 911 systems to meet unanticipated technology changes, but it “dramatically altered the ability of the funding structure to meet county needs, for both operating and capital costs.”
Botjer said in 2014, 68 percent of the costs were covered through the act.
“The original intent was to have 100 percent covered,” said Commissioner Wendall Kay.
He said around 30 percent of the cost came out of the general fund.
“They're trying to reform the system and the funding mechanism,” Kay stated.
CCAP is trying to change the legislation so that it combines planning, administrative, funding and audit provisions into a single consolidated whole.
“Wayne County supports a reform bill that increases 911 subscriber fees to a level that fully supports current and next generation operations and which keys the fees to inflation or allows for other mechanisms to provide regular adjustments to meet system needs,” stated the resolution.
• Robert Lesniak's resignation as a caseworker for Children & Youth Services (CYS) was approved. It is effective March 11.
He has taken another position.
• David Hoff, CEO of Wayne Memorial Hospital, was appointed to the NEPA Alliance Board as a Wayne County representative.
• Robert Suhosky was re-appointed to the Wayne Industrial Development Authority (WIDA) Board for a five year term, effective until Dec. 31, 2019.
• The commissioners approved matching funds for a grant through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) that the Wayne County Historical Society is working on.
The grant is for $60,000 for trail developments at the Canal Park on Route 6 in White Mills.
Botjer said in 2013 the historical society applied for the grant, but the in-kind of $10,000 wasn't popular because of the competitiveness of the grant.
“They've raised almost $10,000 toward it [the project] in the last year,” she said.
The commissioners approved matching $20,000 pending approval of the grant.