The public is invited to a town hall meeting Thursday, April 3, in Houston to learn about a proposal to maintain the 911 system in Texas County. The event is 6:30 p.m. at the Houston Storm Shelter at First and Pine streets.
Persons attending will hear about an April 8 ballot issue that seeks to solve a problem with a declining number of landline telephones. Current funding — since the system became operational — is based on a 15-percent surtax on hardline telephones. Since that time, cellular telephones have become a common device, but the surtax does not apply to them. That has dramatically decreased the amount of revenue to operate Wri-Tex 911.
The ballot issue would drop the surtax for a three-eighths of 1 percent sales tax. Without a new source of funding, county officials say the chances of maintaining a central dispatch system is bleak. Wright County — a partner since its origination — also says it plans not to participate in the joint project much longer. Missouri is the only state in the country that does not tax cellular phones for emergency dispatch services.
What happens if the central dispatching system ends? That was the question Houston senior citizens recently asked during an information session conducted by Donna Robertson, the 911 director. Most likely it would require those seeking help to notify the proper agency required.