"Back Of The Ballot": Inside The Request For Higher 911 Landline Rates In Linn County

By Chris Earl, Reporter

MARION, Iowa - For Linn County voters, a turn of the ballot will reveal whether emergency responders and law enforcement agencies gain access to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One quarter at a time each month.

In the right column of the back page of the November 6 ballot reads a measure asking voters to "increase the monthly surcharge from the current rate of $.25 to $.50 on each telephone access landline".

The increase would lead to an annual charge of $6 (up from the current rate of $3) for each landline in a home or business within the county.

Marion Police Chief and E911 Linn County Chairperson Harry Daugherty said, if the measure passes, the increased revenue would lead to updated equipment and techonology for response teams.

The 2012 request is not as steep as one that Linn County voters rejected soundly two years ago. A 2010 ballot measure called for the 911 monthly rate hike to move from $.25 to $1. More than 58% of voters two years ago were opposed.

Now Daugherty and the board are back, pushing for the lower increase. Daugherty wants county residents to think about a $.50 monthly fee for a landline and compare it with other counties.

"We're the second lowest in the state," said Daugherty. "In Iowa's 99 counties, 80% of them get $1 a month and we're asking for 50 cents." Daughtery noted that Scott County does not have a landline tax but said that revenue is made up by having an operating casino in Davenport.

Yet what if Linn County voters reject the measure?

"We're going to do our jobs and get there," said Daugherty, in the event of the measure failing. "The thing we are going to lose is the upgrades and we will stay in the status quo."

In 2010, Hiawatha Fire Chief Michael Nessage was very vocal in calling for support for that year's landline rate increase.

Nesslage brought up a prime example of how new techonology can assist emergency responders. He said updated technology would allow Hiawatha and Cedar Rapids response teams to work off the same communication system when they are called out along the city boundaries at Blairs Ferry Road.

"There are a lot of other issues with this election that are overshadowing it," Nesslage said with a chuckle. "But it is important for people to understand it is just $3 and goes directly to support first responders and dispatching. It doesn't pay for salaries. It does pay for equipment."

View a Linn County Sample Ballot here.
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