Can you spare 20 minutes?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Throughout the month of January, the Barry County E-911 Operations Center in Cassville will be open to the public each Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. County residents who attend the open house events will have the opportunity to tour the entire 911 Center, including the administrative offices and the dispatching area. Information will also be offered on the one-eighth of a cent sales tax that will come before voters for a second time on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

Currently, the idea of increasing sales taxes is a very controversial topic. Due to the troubled economy, many individuals are adamantly against any new taxes. Although I understand that we are all struggling to pay for existing expenses and none of us want to see any of those expenses increase, I believe that as responsible voters we should look at each tax issue individually instead of casting a blanket "no" vote on all increases.

I also believe that voters owe it to themselves to become educated on issues before making their decision. For this reason, I think that each county resident should take the time to visit the Barry County E-911 Center during the open house events. If dispatchers, Barry County Emergency Service Board members and other E-911 employees are taking time out of their weekends to stand ready to offer tours of the center, area community members should take a few minutes out of their schedules to view the facility.

During the tours, individuals will have the opportunity to ask questions and receive information about the center, county dispatching services and funding needs. I know many voters have questions about why a tax increase is needed to keep Barry County E-911 operational. Why not take this opportunity to get some of those questions answered?

The one-eighth of a cent sales tax failed to get the necessary support from voters in November of 2011, but the vote was very close. In fact, the tax increase was opposed by less than 53 percent of voters. If the sales tax issue fails again in February, it is unclear how local emergency services will be impacted after Dec. 31. It is likely that dispatching will return to the Barry County Sheriff's Department and area cities. It is common knowledge that the county is already struggling to pay deputies without incurring additional costs for dispatching services. The City of Cassville has estimated that their dispatching services alone will cost around $20,000 if the county E-911 system is dissolved.

I voted for the establishment of E-911 on June 7, 2005. As a parent, I do not want the county E-911 system to disappear. I believe central dispatching at a county 911 center is a value for my family. Before you decide if the county-wide system is worth saving, don't you owe it to yourself and other area residents to view the center and gather all the information?

If you missed the open house events held last weekend, plan to attend one of the other upcoming events. Six additional open houses will be held this month. The center will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 13, Jan. 20 and Jan. 27, and from 2 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Jan. 28. Mike Phillips, Barry County E-911 director, said that the tours will take around 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Can you spare 20 minutes to ensure you have all the information before making your decision on Feb. 7?

Lindsay Reed