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Clay County residents to vote on wireless phone fee to fund 911 call system

Clay County voters will decide Nov. 7 whether to pay a monthly fee on wireless phone bills to fund the regional 911 call system.

If the ballot question is passed, a $1 monthly fee will be added to all wireless phone bills in the area to reduce the amount the county must fund.

The fee will help both pay the bills for the 911 system and fund future improvements, including better software to locate callers, the ability for dispatch centers to accept photos and vidoes and enhanced cybersecurity.

A tax on landline phones has funded the 911 call system in Clay County since 1993, but as landlines have become less popular, the county has needed to pull more of its own funds to pay for the resource. Wireless devices were used to make about 80% of 911 calls in Clay County in 2022.

In 2023, Clay County will pay more than $1.1 million for its share of the region’s emergency communications system, which is managed by the Mid-America Regional Council. Fees from landlines and state assistance will cover about $258,000, leaving the county to pay more than three-quarters of the expense.

County leaders say they expect the share they pay to increase each year.

If the measure passes, the fee for landline users will be eliminated.