advertisement
loader-image
Richmond, KY
4:47 pm, April 16, 2024
temperature icon 82°F
broken clouds
Humidity 32 %
Wind Gust: 20 mph
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
A deep dive into life in Madison County after CSEPP Funds are gone, how much will it cost?”

A deep dive into life in Madison County after CSEPP Funds are gone, how much will it cost?”

Guest Columnist Andy McDonald

Officials from Madison County, Berea and Richmond met Thursday to discuss how to replace federal funding for emergency services that will end in June, 2025.

In a meeting at the Madison County Extension Office, the Post CSEPP Task Force, an intergovernmental work group, briefed officials on the end of Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) funding, which provides approximately $1.68 million annually for emergency services operations.

CSEPP has paid for facilities and emergency equipment for over 30 years, including money for the 911 dispatch center, radios for first responders, warning sirens throughout the county, as well as fire trucks and other vehicles. The money was allocated to help governments prepare for a potential chemical weapons accident at the Blue Grass Army Depot, where over 500 tons of lethal chemical agents were stored. CSEPP funding will cease next year since the weapons stockpile has been neutralized.

Task Force Chair Shawn Sandlin said the committee proposed streamlining many services to reduce costs. Among other options, the number of outdoor warning sirens will be reduced to one per zone, and the FM alert radios distributed to every household will be discontinued, since notifications are now available on cell phones. Additionally, alert services like the RAVE Mass Notification system will be rolled into the county’s 911 system. Individual radios for personnel and vehicles, meanwhile, will hereafter be paid for by the three respective governments.

Some systems must remain, since they are crucial to public safety, Sandlin said. The 800-megahertz radio system allows for interagency communication among all first responders.

Other funds for Madison County’s 911 dispatch center are diminishing. Revenue from a $42-per-household telephone land line fee continues to taper off as customers opt out of that service. The county’s joint 911 dispatch center operates with a $2.5 million budget funded by both land line and wireless fees. The three governments each supplement those costs by chipping in $1.05 million annually.

As both CSEPP and land line fees are phased out, the task force anticipates emergency system maintenance and replacement costs of $13 million over a 15-year life cycle. With that in mind, officials are recommending two courses of action; one to raise needed revenue, and the other to restructure management of the 911 center and the Emergency Management Agency.

To cover future costs, the task force is proposing a E911 land use fee based on two categories: Residential/Farm, and Non-Residential, which would include businesses, industries, or other non-residential entities that pay property taxes. As an example, Sandlin said if officials were to set the 911 fee at $75, a home with one primary front door would be charged $75 annually, while an apartment complex with up to 30 front doors would be charged a maximum of $1,200. A complex with more that 31 doors would be assessed a maximum of $2,700.

In the non-residential category, which includes large retailers, the assessment switches to square-feet formula. A non-residential structure with a building that is 125,000-square-feet or larger, would be assessed $4,800 annually, while in contrast, a structure that is between 1 and 500-square feet would be charged $500.

If the three governments adopted the $75 911 fee, the task force projects it could realize $4,397,050 in revenue, which ensures emergency services would be funded through 2030. Sandlin emphasized, however, that the final amount of the fee, anywhere from $55 to $75, would be up to public officials.

According to Sandlin, the fee structure would distribute the cost of 911 services more evenly over the county population.   

“This is a funding mechanism that allows for the sharing of costs among residents, business and enterprises, based on the land use classification, which will determine the fee,” Sandlin said. He added the proposal is based on a model adopted in Kenton County. “We want everybody to share in this cost because first responders obviously serve everybody in the county, whether it’s a farm with a tractor accident or a business where somebody has had a medical emergency. Everybody gets emergency services, so we need everybody to pitch in.”

Under the proposal, the Madison County Emergency Communications Center will become an arm of the Madison County government, including all of its employees. The operation of that facility would be funded by the 911 fee. The Emergency Management Agency (EMA), meanwhile, would be funded by the three governments, according to the proportion of first responders in each entity. Under that formula, Madison County would bear 53 percent of the cost, Richmond would pay 29 percent, and Berea would be responsible for 18 percent of expenses. Sandlin said each government could provide EMA services separately, but that might hinder efficiency and emergency response.

Also proposed is the formation of a new Public Safety Advisory Board, which will consist of 14 members from the respective governments. The body would advise the county on the delivery of emergency services and operations of the centers.

In the coming weeks, the cities of Richmond and Berea must adopt a resolution authorizing Madison County to assess the 911 Fee. The Madison County Fiscal Court, meanwhile, will have to adopt legislation authorizing the assessment and collection of the 911 fee through county property tax bills. Collection of the fees would begin in October with the distribution of county tax bills.

When Madison County Magistrate Billy Ray Hughes asked what would happen if officials didn’t approve the fee, Richmond City Manager Rob Minerich responded that the three governments would have to find the money in their operating budgets, splitting $3.6 million in operating costs.

During a question-and-answer period, some officials expressed intent to discuss the proposal further within their respective government bodies, looking for adjustments that need to be made. Madison County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor, for example, asked for cost projections if the fee was postponed until 2025, while Richmond City Commissioner Mike Brewer and Berea City Councilman Katie Startzman expressed concern about the fee’s potential impact on small businesses and economic development.

Other officials said there seems little choice but to impose some kind of fee to pay for emergency services. The cost of 911 service is estimated to be $4.3 million in Fiscal Year 2025, while EMA service costs are estimated at $346,291.

Said Berea City Councilman Steve Caudill, “When all is said and done, I don’t think we have much of an option. I don’t see us making incremental increases, so I think we need to look to the six-year plan,” suggesting adopting a higher fee in the beginning might be prudent. Magistrate Tom Botkin agreed, noting the governments can’t keep going back to taxpayers year after year for fee increases.

Berea Councilman Jerry Little added that while Richmond, Berea and Madison County must pay for emergency services, it is a matter of how much. “What can we afford?” Little said. “We’d all like a Cadillac, but we might have to go down to about a Volkswagen.”

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

Related Posts

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement