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911 Call Center Sales Tax Hike

A short-staffed 911 call center is a safety concern for people who reside in Boone County, said Dan Atwill, presiding commissioner for the county. That’s why the commissioners met with the county counselor Thursday to hear recommendations on raising the sales tax in Boone County to get funds for the 911 center. In recent months, the auditor has found that a 3/8 of a cent sales tax increase would help bring in about $9 million dollars a year, enough to help build a new 911 center and hire more staff. It’s a measure that Atwill says is expected to pass when the commissioners vote on it Tuesday, which in turn will show up on the April ballot for voters to decide on. Currently, joint communications is sharing a building with the Columbia Police Department and have to leave their building to use the bathroom, said acting operations manager Joe Piper. Piper has been with the department for 20 years, and said he’s only see minimal staff increases, while call volumes have dramatically increased. Nowadays, with everyone having cell phones, said Piper, we’re getting a lot more calls when say, there’s a car accident on Interstate 70. Currently, they only have one person dedicated to picking up 911 calls on a normal day, for the entire county. While there are other personnel in the call center, they have other tasks to focus on, explains Piper. There’s a floor supervisor and three dispatchers, coordinating emergency personnel throughout the county, said Piper. “I can’t imagine calling on an emergency, of a family or a loved one having a heart attack, or something tragic like a house fire or something, and it taking more than a minute for that telephone call to be answered,” said Piper, a reality they struggle with.He said on average each month, 128 calls to 911 in Boone County go unanswered for more than a minute.

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