Council urges state officials to fund needed 911 upgrades

Paul Roselli addresses the council about issues with 911.

BURRILLVILLE – With the Burrillville Police Department currently searching for grants to fund needed upgrades to the town’s 911 system, the town council has called on state legislators to take action to address inadequacies in emergency services statewide.

Fees to fund improvements to 911 services in Rhode Island have been collected through residents’ phone bills for years, but much of the money has been diverted to the state’s general fund.

Resident Paul Roselli noted that BPD, meanwhile, is looking for $150,000 for municipal equipment purchases, and has been told to apply to the Champlin Foundation, the Rhode Island Foundation and the Levy Fund.

“The Burrillville Police Department is looking for some cash, some money, to upgrade their 911 system, and the way they’re doing it is quite extraordinary,” Roselli told the council. “The money that we pay every month that goes into the 911 system is supposed to be used to upgrade equipment.”

“The resolution before you is significant because it has some bearing on what’s happening directly home,” said Roselli.

The resolution notes that at present, the E-911 system has no GPS tracking for cell phones for voice and text messaging services, no emergency medical dispatch, is not in line with mandated municipal equipment upgrades and “does not have a full range of services needed to communicate with all Rhode Islanders who may find themselves in highly stressed emergency crises.”

“Even with some of the best rescue and ambulance corps in the state, the response times in rural areas may be 10 to 15 minutes – a response time that is the product of distance alone,” states a resolution passed unanimously last week.

Money for enhanced 911 services is remitted to the state by phone carriers from surcharges on phone bills, but since 2002, the state has comingled on average 55 percent into the general revenue. According to recent reports, last year, Rhode Island collected some $17 million in 911 and related fees, but spent only about $6 million on the E-911 center.

Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission urged the state to stop the practice, and officials have noted that it harms public safety, leading to a renewed effort by some lawmakers to change it.

In Burrillville, the council voted unanimously to support a legislative study commission to oversee resolution of any inadequacies. The decision has been forwarded to Gov. Gina Raimondo, and grassroots and state agencies, as well as municipalities across the state seeking support.


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