Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden and all five Monmouth County Freeholders called for the State of New Jersey to stop diverting the $.90 per phone line surcharge New Jersey consumers pay with their cell and landline bills from it’s intended purpose…the funding of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs)… at a press conference outside the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Center in Freehold this afternoon.
According to draft resolution that the New Jersey Association of Counties is urging all 21 New Jersey Freeholder Boards to adopt, New Jersey is in violation of federal law, the “NET 911 Act of 2008” (H.R 3403) for having diverted 89% of the $1.25 billion in 911 System and Emergency Response Fees collected since 2006.
“Monmouth County wants to move forward with timely upgrades and improvements to its 911 system, yet we are wondering why the funds being collected for this purpose are not finding to the county treasury,” said Freeholder Director Tom Arnone. ” We estimate that our taxpayers are paying more than $5 million annually as their share of the 911 system fee. We want, we demand, that the money come back to fund 911 improvements that will serve residents, businesses and visitors.”
Golden noted that the 911 system throughout New Jersey is currently operating on 1980’s technology, 9000 baud modems, “like we used to dial into AOL with,” and are unable to receive text messages with photos and videos. The current system can not locate 911 callers with pinpoint accuracy. “You can find your iPhone with pinpoint accuracy,” Golden said, “but we can not locate residents in need of emergency assistance with the same level of accuracy, despite the technology being readily available and in use in other states.”
Golden noted that during the recent terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida, that victims were texting photos and videos to the local PSAP. “Sometimes it takes a tragedy to get things moving forward,” Golden said. “New Jersey should learn from Orlando and stop cutting corners with public safety.”
The technology that Golden and the Freeholders want implemented statewide is known as Next Generation 911 (NG911).
Text 911 has been available on all cell phone in the United States since June 30 last year, pursuant to an order by the Federal Communications Commission. According the the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management’s website, “You cannot send a text message to 9-1-1.”
“Our 911 systems need to be upgraded with this technology in order for PSAPS to enhance the public safety and will-being of our residents during emergency situations,” said Golden. “Without this funding, which we believe has not been spent appropriately, no advancement will take place. We are calling on the state to return the fund back into the account in an effort to move ahead with the original plan of building a cutting edge 911 system.”
Deputy Freeholder Director Serena DiMaso noted that there has been legislation in Trenton that would raise the $.90 per phone line fee to .$99. “That’s a 10% tax increase,” said DiMaso. “Trenton needs to do what we’ve been doing in Monmouth County. We cut spending $4.9 million this year. Sheriff Golden cut his budget $900,000. ”
“I am angry about this,” said Freeholder Lillian Burry. “The state is not using money it collects from the people for its intended purposes.”