News : Bethlehem City Council Requests Particulars for City 911 Call Center
Bethlehem, PA, Jan 7, 2015 -- Bethlehem City Councilman and chair of its public safety committee, Eric Evans, asked the city's administration for in-depth particulars concerning Bethlehem's current 911 emergency call center, including options and costs to determine whether the city should continue operating its own center or possibly join one run by Northampton County.
During city council's first meeting in 2015, Evans asked officials for information in order to review current and future operational costs of the 911 call center, and to subsequently have these expenses reviewed during upcoming public safety committee meetings.
He also noted this information would then have to be compared to state reimbursements to the city from telephone taxes collected from both cellular and land line phone subscribers.
The councilman said the matter would be discussed during upcoming council meetings in February and March.
Council President J. William Reynolds remarked he would prefer council address the 911 issue early in the new year rather than later as it was in 2014.
Evans and fellow councilman Adam Waldron said two-thirds of the current tax increase will be used to offset the city's increased costs to operate its call center due to dramatic reductions in state reimbursements to Bethlehem in addition to municipalities statewide.
Reynolds and Evans said they, in addition to the city's police and fire chiefs, all favor Bethlehem maintaining its own emergency call center.
"We do not want to disband the current 911 system", said Reynolds. However, he said council's desire is to arrive at a solution earlier in the year due to the state's reimbursement cutbacks.
He noted last year Bethlehem received only 56 percent of what it normally would receive to operate its 911 call center.
And that reduction, said the council president, is nearly 25 percent less than what Bethlehem received in 2013.
Reynolds added the state's current funding formula for municipal call center reimbursements expired at the end of last year.
He noted he is a member of Governor Tom Wolf's Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency transitional team whose goals is to have state lawmakers pass an updated funding formula for all Pennsylvania municipalities.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Thursday, January 8, 2015