Broward County Commission Votes Against a Consolidated 911 System

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    NEWSLETTERS

    For a second time, Broward County Commission voted 5-4 against funding a consolidated 911 dispatch system with a slight raise in property taxes. NBC 6's Ari Odzer reports. (Published Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013)

    For the second time in three weeks, the Broward County Commission voted Tuesday against funding a consolidated 911 dispatch system with a slight raise in property taxes.

    The county's own board, which studied the issue for months, recommended commissioners raise taxes by two-tenths of a mil per month to pay for setting up a county-wide system to handle emergency calls.

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    That idea failed last month. On Tuesday, commissioners voted 5-4 against a compromise proposal, which would raise the tax by one-tenth of a mil in 2014 and one-tenth of a mil in 2015, spreading out the impact of the increase. One-tenth of a mil is one dollar per every $100,000 of a home's value. 

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    "I'd like to see everybody under one umbrella, I think it is the safest way, I think the call response times will go down," said Broward Sheriff Scott Israel before the commission voted. 

    The sheriff says he doesn't care where the money comes from, as long as enough money is found to glue the county's fragmented 911 system together. As it stands now, cell phone 911 calls can end up being transferred multiple times, from agency to agency.

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    In Miami-Dade County, a centralized 911 dispatch system handles all calls seamlessly.

    Speaker after speaker urged the commissioners to approve the consolidation funding plan. 

    "You are the only body, the higher authority, that is charged with looking at what is best for our entire county," said Sunrise City Manager Alan Cohen, who was once the mayor of Ithaca, New York. 

    Cohen said in Ithaca, he faced the same situation and voted to raise taxes to centralize the 911 system there. 

    "Not once was I ever criticized by a single taxpayer when we were spending additional dollars to enhance their public safety," Cohen told the Commission.

    Differences Between 911 Calls Made From Cell Phone and Land Lines 

    "We have got to make a decision today and be bold about it and make a decision to save lives," thundered Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief during the meeting. 

    Sharief was on the losing end of the vote. Instead, commissioners voted for a plan to fund 911 consolidation by having the county pay 60 percent and the cities in the county, of which there are 31, pay the other 40 percent. 

    "They voted for failure," said Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan, outraged by the Commission's action. Ryan says there's no way all the cities will get on board. 

    "This will not go forward now," Ryan said. "It'll be years of litigation, it'll result in referendums, in the interim, what's really important is that there will be thousands of misdirected calls and millions of dollars wasted."

    The plan voted down by the county would've saved the county millions of dollars in the long run, according to the board that studied the issue.

    The cities of Coral Springs and Plantation each opposed the consolidation plan, saying their own 911 systems are already getting the job done.