The Long County Commission on Tuesday reported that fees collected to cover the cost of the 911 service were coming up short, and the cost of the county’s emergency-management service is going to increase.
Commissioner Gerald Blocker said the county currently is receiving approximately $12,000 a month from a $1.50 fee that is tacked onto landline and cellphone bills. He said that this has not been covering the $20,000 monthly cost to provide the E-911 service. He said the $8,000 shortage has to be paid by the county and is taking a chunk out of county funds.
Blocker said one of the reasons that the county has to absorb the shortfall is because some of the fees that are supposed to go to Long County are going to the 911 service providers in the adjoining counties like Liberty and Tattnall. He said that many Long County residents, like him, have mailing addresses that are listed with cities in other counties.
Two areas where examples of this error are taking place are in the Sand Hill area, where many mailing addresses list Glennville as the city, and near the airport in Liberty County, where Hinesville is the city on the address.
“If you live in one of these addresses, where a city in another county is listed on your mailing address, you need to check your cellphone and landline bill,” Blocker said. “If it doesn’t say that the $1.50 is going to Long County, you need to call your phone company and tell them to change it on your bill. These other counties are getting that money, and it needs to be corrected.”
Also Tuesday, the commission unanimously approved extending the contract with Liberty Regional Medical Center to provide the county with EMS through Dec. 1, retroactive to June 1.
Renewing the contract had been in question for several months. Commissioner Kent Hall said there was an increase in the cost to provide the service of $120,000 annually. Blocker said that despite the increase, the rate of charges had been negotiated and lowered from the initial bid.
Robyn Todd, director of Liberty Regional’s EMS services, said the hospital did not raise the rate to increase profit, but because the cost to provide services has increased. She said that because of health-care reform, the hospital is receiving less medical-reimbursement money from Medicaid, Medicare and other insurance companies.
Todd also said that with the bad economy, many people are choosing not to have health insurance and are paying their own bills. She said that when this occurs, it results in less money collected by the hospital.
The commission also took the first step to adopting an ordinance to clean up and make the water landings in Long County more family friendly.
Sheriff Craig Nobles said that with the proposed ordinance, residents would have to obtain written permission from the sheriff’s office to camp at any of the landings in the county.
He said that some of the other specifics of the ordinance are not allowing any alcohol, ATVs or bonfires, and that no one can be at the landings between the hours of 11 p.m.-
5 a.m. without permission.
Nobles said that signs would be placed at each landing informing people of the new rules, and that his department first would issue offenders warnings to give residents time to become aware of the changes. He said that once people have been cited, they could be fined up to $1,000 and jailed for up to 60 days.
Commission Chairman Robert Long said that the announcement to adopt the new rules was the first reading of the ordinance. He said that there will be a second reading and a public hearing prior to approval.
In other business Tuesday, the commission:
• approved continuing its health-wellness program for county employees.
• charged Hall with meeting Steven and Melissa Wheeler to help them resolve drainage problems at their home in Crawford subdivision.
• reappointed Lillian Simmons, Harold Tatum and Janet Watford to the county’s Advisory Council on Aging.
• tabled an ordinance to eliminate the firing of weapons in residential areas.