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Another vote on E911 planned

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

If the chairman of the Fayette County Board has his way, county residents will be voting on an Enhanced 911 referendum as early as this November.

At the close of Tuesdays county board meeting, Chairman Steve Knebel updated board members and department heads on a study being done on bringing the emergency phone service.

Through the service, county residents provide information about themselves, their homes and businesses to an Enhanced 911 coordinator. Also provided is pertinent medical information, such as heart conditions of family members, and information about hazardous materials on their property.

All of that information appears on the police and fire dispatchers computer screen as soon as a 911 call is received.

The Enhanced 911 issue has been on the ballot twice in Fayette County. In 1991, a $1.25 monthly surcharge was rejected by county residents, and in 1995, a referendum with a $2.50 monthly surcharge was voted down.

Knebel formed an ad hoc committee late last year after Lockport-based GenDesign approached the county board about helping the county put the issue before voters again and to implement the service.

Other members of that committee include county board members Darrell Schaal and John Daniels Jr., Fayette County Sheriff Aaron Lay, Vandalia Police Chief Larry Eason, Vandalia Fire Chief Merle Adermann and Amy Schaal of Fayette County Hospital.

At its November meeting, county board members heard Mike Gende of GenDesign say that he believed the county could implement the service with county residents paying a surcharge of $1 per month.

Mike Schabbing, the E911 coordinator in Jasper County, told the ad hoc committee recently that the countys monthly surcharge would likely be higher than $1, but not higher than what was proposed in earlier referendums.

Knebel said on Tuesday that hes hopeful that the committee is able to recommend a referendum vote in the near future, possibly at the November general election. The county board chairman spoke out strongly for bringing the service to county residents.

Its probably because of my job, but Im a firm believer in this, Knebel said, an Illinois State Police officer who responds to emergency situations as part of his job.

Its going to have my support 120 percent.

Its very important that we have the technology and that we use the technology, he said.

Darrell Schaal told other board members that of the states 102 counties, only 14 including Fayette County do not provide Enhanced 911 service, and that two of the 14 are in the process of adding the service.

The cost per line, Knebel said, whether its $2 or $3 (a month), try to weigh that against the cost of a life (that can be saved with Enhanced 911) you cant do it.

I think this is a very important issue, Knebel said. If we wait and wait, and keep waiting, to do this, it eventually will be forced on us (through a state mandate).

If we can pay that amount for our schools, he said, referring to passage of a referendum for the Vandalia School District last fall, we can do the same to help save lives.