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Brooke commissioners introduce 911 levy

WELLSBURG — Citing a need to generate more revenue for the county’s emergency 911 center, the Brooke County Commission will ask voters to support a four-year levy for it in the May 12 primary election.

On Tuesday the commission approved an order for the levy, which would generate $625,208 each year for four years for the center’s operation.

It states the funds may be used “to operate, maintain and improve and repair equipment; train and educate employees; purchase supplies needed for the general maintenance and repair of the 911 Communication Center facilities; provide for salaries, wages and benefits of the employees; and for capital improvements to the 911 Communication Center.”

The order sets the following levy rates: 1.65 cents per $100 of the assessed value of Class I property; 3.30 cents per $100 of the assessed value of Class II property; and 6.60 cents per $100 of the assessed value of Class III and IV property.

County Commissioner A.J. Thomas said declining revenue in 911 fees collected from land line and cellular phone users prompted the levy.

Thomas said the center has “lost, just in the last couple of years, $100,000,” from the land line fees because a large number of residents are dropping their land line service. He said as cell phone use becomes more prevalent, the decline is expected to continue.

In 2018, the commission raised the monthly landline fee from $2.05 to $6.05, citing a $15,000 deficit at which the center was operating.

The commissioners said the center is at risk of running into the red again next year.

Raised from $3 last year, the $3.34 monthly fee for cell phone users is divided among the West Virginia State Police, for 911 upgrades; the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to establish and maintain an interoperable radio network involving local agencies; and each of the 55 counties based on their population.

County Commissioner Stacey Wise said county officials have approached state legislators about attaching a 911 fee to residents’ utilities, noting anyone paying a gas or electricity bill has access to 911 services. But she said utility providers have resisted such a measure.

The commissioners said the levy’s term was chosen to coincide with the end of the county’s current three levies, which were renewed in 2018.

Wise said after the levy’s four-year term, the commission may consider whether the 911 center may be incorporated into one of the existing levies.

The ambulance excess levy raises $1,060,490 per year for five years for the county’s ambulance service, courthouse maintenance, repair and improvement; nine other assorted agencies serving the county.

The county’s fire levy raises $492,746 per year for five years,with the amount divided among 11 fire departments serving the county.

And the animal shelter levy raises $428,475 per year for five years for the shelter’s operations.

In other business, the commission tabled a request from the Weirton park and recreation commission for $15,000 to assist with more than $4 million in estimated improvements and repairs to the city’s parks and recreational facilities.

Coty Shingle, the board’s director, said the projects include repairing the south wall of the Weirton Millsop Community Center, repurposing of Margaret Manson Weir Memorial Pool, playing surface upgrades to the Edwin J. Bowman Field, new water slides at Starvaggi Memorial Pool, resurfacing the northwest end of the Panhandle Trail and upgrades to playground facilities.

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