Settlement money to help local 911 centers

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Justin Jones

GRAVES COUNTY, Ky.--It was hailed as welcomed news in E911 centers across the state; a prepaid wireless provider paid up after years of avoiding a state-mandated 911 fee.

TracFone Wireless paid 911 centers across Kentucky nearly 3-million dollars to make up for E911 fees between the years 2006 and 2013. 10 E911 centers in our area are cashing those settlement checks; McCracken County received 39 thousand dollars, Marshall County got 25 thousand, and the Mayfield Police Department received nearly 19 thousand dollars.

The money will help local 911 centers while directors say they're struggling with unfunded, mandated upgrades.

Nearly 600 thousand dollars in new equipment has yet to be installed at Purchase Area E911 inside KSP Post 1. This is the first step in a multi-million dollar digital transition. That's why this money couldn't have come at a better time.

Tucked in this cozy room at State Police Post One, dispatchers know the words uttered during these calls can help them save lives.

But if a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what cell phone video could do.
Dispatchers could gauge the intensity of each emergency.

That sounds great, but board chair Shari Clapp said the 5-county Purchase Area E911 is millions away from that, so the 33 thousand dollars in settlement money came as a welcome surprise.

"We didn't know if it would ever be settled," Clapp said.

Kentucky Commercial Radio Service Board Executive Director Joe Barrows said the state fought TracFone for years.

"We believe every device that has the ability to make a 911 call or access 911 ought to be supporting 911 services," Barrows said.

Clapp looks forward to receiving the 70-cent per month TracFone fee in the future, and can only imagine what the future holds.

Joe Barrows with the state says there is also pending litigation against Virgin Mobile for the same thing.

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