Residents of West Fargo will be voting Tuesday on a proposed fifty cent telephone fee increase to fund the City's share of the emergency 911 communications services. The current fee assessed each telephone service or a wireless service subscriber in West Fargo is $1. The telephone service provider collects the fees and directs them back to the local body of government. The funds are earmarked by law to pay the costs of providing emergency communications services.
In 2011 the City of West Fargo received $250,175.67 in returned fees. During this same time West Fargo paid the Red River Regional Dispatch Center $292,000 to provide emergency 911 communications services. As of October 2012 the City has received $227,765.44. West Fargo will pay the Red River Regional Dispatch Center $390,928 this year. The increase in costs relates to computer equipment and program upgrades and maintenance of the systems. Any shortfalls in funding dedicated to providing West Fargo's emergency communications services must be taken from the City's general fund.
Byron Sieber, Director of the Red River Regional Dispatch Center, indicates, "Even with the great cost savings occurring in the consolidated dispatch center, current 911 fees do not cover the entire cost of running the 911 center and its entire infrastructure. As digital phone technology continues to evolve, customer expectations and needs will rise tremendously thus creating a need to acquire more advanced software and hardware. Planned obsolescence by vendors of current hardware and software will require the replacement over time of much of the infrastructure that has been in use for many years. As the regional population has increased over the past ten years the staffing levels to handle the increasing volume of calls has remained stagnant. As the public continues to end their home phone service in favor of cell phones more advanced technology will be needed to identify callers and their locations. This is critical in order to know where to send Fire, Law Enforcement, and EMS first responders."
In 2008 the West Fargo Police and Fire Departments discontinued providing local emergency communications services and joined the Red River Regional Dispatch Center. The center provides emergency dispatch service to all of Cass and Clay Counties. The move was based in part upon the increased costs associated with the rapidly evolving technology industry and the need to update the system that was in place in West Fargo at the time. This same consolidation of services has occurred in other parts of North Dakota and across the nation.