A new study from the New River Valley Emergency Communications Regional Authority shows that the numbers of 911 calls from Christiansburg are on the rise.
Now that same authority is asking the four localities that make up the group (Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Virginia Tech and Montgomery County) to approve a new financial plan that would cost the town more money percentage-wise than the others.
When the New River Valley Regional 911 Authority was organized three years ago, the four members agreed to divide costs evenly at 25 percent. Now the authority’s board is asking for funding to be based on call numbers.
Tuesday night, Christiansburg leaders were told their locality is getting a higher percent of the calls that are filtered through the center. That means the town could be facing a new annual cost of over $80,000.
The proposed funding formula would utilize a three-year rolling average of call data percentages with law enforcement, fire and rescue weighted calls for service from the previous calendar years.
Interim Town Manager Randy Wingfield said each discipline (law enforcement, fire and rescue) would be calculated and assigned separately and then those numbers would decide the percentage each locality would pay to the authority.
“They will be given a value that will decide the percentage of calls and the type of calls for each locality,” he said.
The authority was created to provide quality and reliable 911 dispatch and emergency services to the area. It became fully operational in the newly renovated Montgomery County public safety building last year.
On its webpage the authority says: “the centralized 911 dispatch center routes emergency calls more quickly and accurately to the appropriate local emergency medical, fire and law enforcement agencies by reducing transfers. This saves valuable response time and, therefore, lives.”
The new funding plan would take effect for the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget process.
Councilman Cord Hall said that increase would be taken from the town’s general fund with its citizens being impacted by the rising cost.
Wingfield said the idea of percentage based funding is being used in many other areas that have organized regional 911 centers including Martinsville-Henry County. In Roanoke, a similar arrangement is based on the equal percentage like what is currently being done here in the NRV.
In order to make the change, each locality would have to approve it and then the change in financials would have to be approved by the Virginia General Assembly.
Christiansburg Mayor Michael Barber said there was no doubt in his mind the other three partners would approve the percentage change. Again, it would cost the town more money in the very near future.
Currently the town’s share of the 911 annual budget is $821,00/
When the regional 911 center was formed, the town, like the other three members, were able to eliminate the individual 911 call centers, thus saving a lot more money in the long run. But town leaders are upset with the possible financial change.
Councilman Henry Showalter said each member agreed on the 25 percent split and that’s how it should continue to be divided.
Each partner has a representative on the regional board, but Christiansburg leaders seemed to be caught off guard by the request.
“The regional authority has only been in existence for two years, and now they want to make this change,” Showalter said.
Council did not take any action on the matter, instead postponing a vote until its first meeting in September. They have planned a work session on the matter next week when staff is expected to bring a breakdown of the number of calls being given to Christiansburg personnel.
Wingfield said the proposed breakdown of calls under the new percentage plan is limited to just the town’s corporate limits, despite the fact town emergency personnel regularly answers calls along the interstate and into the county.
“Those will be linked to the call percentage for the county or the area in which we answer them and not to our percentage,” he said.
Blacksburg Town Council approved the change to the current system at its meeting on Tuesday. The authority would to submit the same for approval to the Virginia General Assembly at its 2018 legislative session before it can take effect.
In other matters, council also tabled a decision on a new sign ordinance until all members of council are present. Councilman Brad Stipes was out of town for Tuesday’s meeting.
Council also reappointed Al Bowman as an at-large member of the Virginia Tech/Montgomery Regional Airport Authority Board. The term runs from Sept. 1, 2017 to Aug. 31, 2021.
Richard Ballengee was also reappointed as the town’s primary appointee to the New River Valley Agency on Aging.
Councilman Steve Huppert will serve as the alternate to the group.