Crenshaw County E 911 Facing Its Own Emergency

The Crenshaw County 911 dispatchers have handled hundreds of critical calls, but now they're facing their own emergency.  "We are just above the water right now," said EMA Director Ben Pynes.

Pynes says the system could find itself on life support, if more money doesn't come in soon. "Our estimated income is $233,000 and our outlay is $253,000," He says.

The primary source of funding is a $2 charge for traditional wired telephones.  But with many folks switching to cell phones, the money is decreasing as costs increase.  "One time last month, we couldn't meet salaries," says Pynes.

County Commission Chairman Ronnie Hudson says the commission has drawn up a bill that would put a $2 fee on water meters per month.  "That with the $2 fee we collect from phones, would allow us to fund 911 adequately," says Hudson.

Hudson says it's a small price to pay for a service that could mean the difference between life and death.  He says, "We are looking at everybody's safety. We are trying to stop a train wreck before somebody gets killed."

The County Commission hopes to get that bill through the legislature and on the ballot next February. Then of course, voters would have to approve it.  It would add around $144,000 a year. Officials say most of that money would go toward hiring additional staff.  Right now, they only have five full time dispatchers and they need eight.