3 On Your Side Investigates - E911 money management - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

3 On Your Side Investigates - E911 money management

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By Marsha Thompson - bio | email

HINDS COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - As WLBT news first reported, there is a little known surcharge on your cell phone and home phone bills to pay for Enhanced 911 systems in every county of Mississippi.

Using GPS on cell phones, 911 operators can actually track your exact location during an emergency, a car wreck.

Even if you are badly injured and can't speak a word.

Our E911 investigation revealed millions have been collected for phase 2 E911.

But are you getting the service your paying for?

If you live in Jackson or Hinds County the answer is simple. No. 

In an emergency seconds absolutely count, so where will a computer system send first responders when you make that critical call to 911?

We tested the system earlier this month in Jackson and Hinds County using my cell phone.

Operators could not figure out my location.

That's because the system here in the Capitol city and county has not been upgraded to GPS phase 2, despite $3 million stashed away according to the Hinds County Board President, Robert Graham. 

"This is probably one of the most important pieces of equipment any county can have and we should have it in place,"  Supervisor Graham told WLBT News two weeks ago.

It was approved in July of 2009, yet Phase 2 upgrades for GPS are not in place.

Records obtained by Jackson Jambalaya indicate Hinds Supervisors shuffle millions of dollars of the E911 money around, at will, using it to allegedly pay for roads, garbage payroll.

Not to upgrade a GPS emergency call system that could provide you with first responders quickly, by pinpointing your location to within 50 yards.

We have discovered a giant loophole in state law, excess e911 money can be legally diverted by Supervisors thanks to Mississippi legislators.

In 2009 State Auditor Stacey Pickering tried to correct this loophole.

"People in Jackson are under the impression with the GPS system they pay for emergency service is going to be dispatched based on the GPS location that they are calling from, that's not true," Pickering said Monday.

We asked him, "so Supervisors statewide can continue to shuffle this money around and not upgrade?"

"So far that seems to be the case,"  Pickering said.

Pickering pushed lawmakers to require all counties be Phase 2 compliant before they could ever borrow against excess E911 money. 

Senate bill number 2938 does not include his request.

By law, the E911 money should be paid back within the fiscal year if borrowed, but state law even provides wiggle room there.  

"Borrowing from the E911 fund is commonly done by all counties and has been for years," Supervisor Graham said Monday.

Graham says the money is always paid back with interest.

So if and when you need to make an emergency 911 call in the Capitol city, Hinds County or 38 other counties you may not be able to count on a rapid response.

We have learned that 11 counties in Mississippi are not even capable of providing Phase 1 e911.

Clay, Franklin, Greene, Issaquena, Itawamba, Kemper, Noxubee, Quitman, Sharkey, Tate and Webster.

27 counties only have Phase 1 911 without GPS technology.

Only 44 Mississippi counties have upgraded go Phase 2 enhanced 911 using GPS technology.

Even worse, Mississippi may be missing out on millions of federal E911 dollars yearly because of the legal loophole allowing Supervisors to use the money for purposes other than the 911 upgrades.

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