On April 2, Boone County residents vote on whether the county should increase its sales tax to fund improvements to its 911 dispatch center.
Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill said there haven’t been any major changes to the center since 1990s. Currently in Boone County, 130 calls each month take more than 60 seconds to answer, while industry standard dictates that most calls are processed within 15 seconds.
Columbia City Manager Mike Matthes said the joint communications and 911 dispatch center needs to keep up with Boone County’s growing population.
“You have St. Louis calling us Boom-town," Matthes said. "That’s right. Feels good, but it’s true as well. At the same time the recession took money off the table so you’ve had sort of the perfect storm that really exposed the weakness in that partnership.”
But opponents to the proposed tax say the public shouldn’t have to pay for the county government’s mistakes. The president of Keep Columbia Free Mark Flakne said the government has spent a lot on projects that should not have been priorities.
“The city has proposed $3.1 million to underwrite American Airlines, they are talking about spending five hundred thousand on the Blind Boone Home," Flakne said. "Yet they want to raise taxes to pay for basic services like emergency services and 911 center. I think that’s an absolute fraud.”
The proposition would increase general sales tax by 3/8 of a cent. If it passes, a $20 million bond would be issued and financed over a 20-year period. County officials said the center would hire more employees and improve equipment if the bill passes.