KEYSER - Mineral County residents may soon see an increase in their landline fees to assist the 911 Center, and several citizens spoke against the raise Tuesday during a public hearing on the matter.

By Jean Braithwaite
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - Mineral County residents may soon see an increase in their landline fees to assist the 911 Center, and several citizens spoke against the raise Tuesday during a public hearing on the matter.
The hearing was held Tuesday evening at the Mineral County Courthouse, and Dr. Richard Lechliter, president of the Mineral County Commission, said the addition to the landline fee would make the 911 Center “more self-sufficient.”
Lechliter gave a rundown of landline raises in several of the state’s counties by saying Cabell’s fees went from $2.50 to $7 and in Harrison the fee was 98 cents and is now $3.
The proposed raise in Mineral County will go from $3 to $5.
He said that statewide the raise in landline fees will be to stabilize 911 centers.
Lechliter said every employee at the county 911 center has at least three years of experience, and, “No one off the street can be a 911 dispatcher,” because of the training process and yearly recertification.
He said that there has been a small amount of savings at the center, when a floating position was eliminated and is now filled when necessary by the director or deputy director.
Saying that equipment in the office is updated all the time, Lechliter said this updating includes the towers.
The first two speakers were from the Keyser area, and Mary Lou Smith said the raise will affect the retired and elderly, with theses being on a fixed income.
“They have no hope of a raise,” she said, and to the county commissioners, she added, “It is unfair if you three decide the taxes and fees on my phone.”
Smith suggested overtime for 911 employees be curbed, as she cited that the sum of $65,000 has been paid in overtime costs.
She asked he commissioner that if the 911 fees are raised to $5, “will you later ask for more?”
Debbie Taylor was the second to be against the raise, and said an excessive amount was allotted to the 911 Center, with the raise being a “burden to the taxpayers.”
Luke McKenzie, OEM and 911 director, said,” We do have to provide overtime,” and explained the rundown of employees of which he said there were 13, and 12 are dispatchers and one is the deputy director.
He said, “There is a 12-hour shift, with three employees, sometimes four for a four-day rotation.”
“When a 911 call comes in, it has to be answered,” McKenzie said, and then the correct people like the police or an ambulance are contacted to respond.
Val Fisher, of Fort Ashby, signed on as against the raise in the 911 fees, and she suggested changing the shifts for the employees to eight hours with less pay.
She wanted to know what the average pay rate was for the employees and McKenzie answered $24,000, with no cap on the amount.
Fisher said, “There has to be a way to cap” the raises, adding that the landline raise was “not fair to the citizens.”
She asked about the equipment charges, and McKenzie said there are high warranty costs for the equipment and training is necessary because, “Before a dispatcher can answer the phone, they have to be certified.”
Fisher suggested bringing a trainer to the county, with McKenzie answering that if there were 10 to train at a time that might be an option, but usually only one person at a time is trained.
He said that during the average day, 61 incidents are recorded.
Jim Fisher, of Fort Ashby, asked, the commissioners, “When will the decision be made?” concerning the raise.
Lechliter said that the comments from the hearing and gathered information will be discussed at the next county commission meeting, and the findings will be sent onto to the West Virginia Public Service Commission for their decision.