Most people in Cody will see a slight increase in their phone bill in the next few months as Park County looks to make enough money to keep up with 911 system maintenance costs.
The county commissioners, with Lloyd Thiel absent, voted unanimously to raise the monthly 911 fee on phone bills to 75 cents. The county has been one of three in the state charging 50 cents – all others charge the state max of 75 cents.
It was the second attempt at raising the fee. In 2003, soon after the state changed the max fee from 50 to 75 cents, commissioners declined to raise it when everyone who commented during a public hearing was against the increase. This time, no one spoke at the public hearing.
The new fee will take effect no more than 90 days after the commissioners sign a resolution on the increase.
County chief information officer Michael Conners said the increase was needed to keep up with rising costs of 911 service due in part to the proliferation of cell phones.
The self-funding 911 service had previously been able to stash enough money to revamp its 911 system last year and it is expected to last 5-7 years. But increasing costs no longer allow the department to save money.
“Fifty cents is not enough to sustain us where we’re at,” he said. “In 5-7 years we’re not going to have enough money to replace (the new system). We can sustain it, not more.”
Chair Jake Fulkerson said raising the fee was needed and 911 service was not something to mess with.
“We’re in a good place now with the new system and now is the time to do this so we’re in great shape in 10 years, or three years from now when the technology changes,” he said.
Conners said the next systems will allow for people to call, text or email 911, which already has the capability to determine a caller’s GPS location on a cell phone to determine the correct dispatch center to route a call to.
As for who will pay the new fee: Everyone in the county with a landline will pay the fee and people who have local cell phone numbers or who transferred their cell phone service when moving into the county.
Conners said it generally balances itself out between people who live in the county and don’t have local numbers, versus those who no longer live here yet still have local numbers.