Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

911 Center Kept in Funding Limbo

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

911 Center Kept in Funding Limbo

Article excerpt

Allegheny County's 911 center will continue to wait for a funding solution from Harrisburg.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has urged state lawmakers to update the 911 Emergency Telephone Act, testifying before the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee last fall that without changes to the funding formula, the county's 911 system is "poised for collapse."

But it looks as though changes will not come this session.

"It's not good news," Mr. Fitzgerald said Tuesday. "We've got to put a funding source in place that funds our public safety, 911 emergency operation centers across the state."

The House on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve Barrar, R-Chester/Delaware, that will extend the current law for one year. The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.

Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, said in an email that, "One way or another, I expect the sunset provision in that law will be extended." He said he is not sure whether that will be accomplished through Mr. Barrar's bill. A similar bill passed in the state Senate last week.

The extension "gives us a little more bargaining time," said Doug Hill, executive director of the County Commissioners' Association of Pennsylvania, which declared 911 funding a top legislative priority for 2014.

The goal is to continue the discussion, then to have lawmakers agree upon legislation by the end of 2014, introduce it in January of 2015 and have it on the governor's desk in April, he said.

"It's a significant responsibility," Mr. Hill said. "It's the first thing most people think of when they think of government services."

The lack of an extension would have resulted in a "fiscal crisis" for every county in Pennsylvania, said Rick Grejda, spokesman for the Service Employees International Union Local 668, which represents 911 dispatchers in Allegheny, Butler, Beaver, Westmoreland and Washington counties. …

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