GALLIA COUNTY — Gallia residents will be asked to decide whether they want to continue paying a quarter of a percent sales tax to fund 911 emergency and communication operations on upcoming election day, Nov. 5, by saying yes or no to the Gallia 911 Communications Center’s operating levy.
“We don’t get funding from the (Gallia County) general fund,” said Gallia 911 Communications and Emergency Management Agency Director Sherry Daines. “Aside from some funding from the state due to wireless (devices), practically all our funding comes from the levy.”
According to Gallia Commissioner Harold Montgomery, the 911 sales tax issue must be placed before voters every five years so the communications center can continue operating at its current financial level. County officials said of all legal taxable goods and services purchased in Gallia, a quarter of one percent in sales went back to the center. Should voters approve the measure, they would continue paying the same quarter of one percent sales tax.
The Gallia 911 program reportedly started with its communication center being opened in September 1997.
“This is not a new levy and we’re not asking for additional funds,” said Montgomery previously. “We’re asking to continue funding the 911 system.”
The sales tax brings roughly $1 million to the communications center’s operations yearly.
According to Daines, the center handles around 55,000 to 65,000 calls a year, including communications for all of Gallia’s emergency services and non-emergency connections to first responder services. Only the Ohio State Highway Patrol does not utilize the Gallia 911 Communications Center as it has its own dispatching services.
“That includes all of our radio traffic and various things the dispatchers do for officers and responders,” said Daines. “There’s a lot that goes on here behind the scenes. They have to memorize codes and signals. They have to have a 40-hour basic dispatch class and they have to have emergency medical dispatch training which is another 32 hours. That requires recertification every two years and continuing education (credits). So they are very busy just keeping up with their training to stay certified to work.”
Daines said the additional medical training was due to the recent application of new state standards.
Montgomery previously said in June it is the responsibility of the county and townships to provide emergency call services. If the sales tax is voted down, he said he felt it would be devastating to an already tight general fund and affect first responder services negatively.
“We updated our radio system five years ago and we upgraded the consoles and radio system then,” said Daines. “We recently upgraded our 911 phone system and we’re hoping to upgrade to our computer-assisted dispatch system next year, which would be funded though grants.”
Around 11 part-time and 11 full-time dispatchers work for the organization. Day and evening shifts have three dispatchers working, Daines said, and two working after midnight.
“We feel having all our communication here makes it easier and more efficient for emergency services,” said Daines. “Before we had the 911 center, you used to have to call each agency’s number (individually) when a problem occurred.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.