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911 surcharge increase back on track

The push toward an increase in the 911 surcharge in Archuleta County is back on track with the removal of objections by the Attorney General’s office, but the fee still faces the obstacle of Proposition 101.

A July 30 motion filed by the AG’s office, as counsel for the PUC, stated that trial staff of the PUC requested a hearing and that among the issues that it would “raise and address” were:

• Whether the BoCC satisfied its burden of proof to demonstrate that the increased revenue from the surcharge increase would be sufficient to purchase, update and maintain 911 system equipment and software; and

• Whether the BoCC “satisfied its burden of proof to demonstrate the increased expense for a portion of the total construction costs of the Emergency Operations Center is appropriate.”

Because of the motion, a pretrial hearing was set for Sept. 15 in Denver to discuss a procedural schedule, hearing dates for the application, and other details of the hearing format.

Archuleta County Attorney Todd Starr explained that, instead of setting the schedule, Administrative Law Judge Paul C. Gomez noted that the case was the third in a row in which the PUC had filed an objection and further noted the outcome of the other cases — the AG’s office dropped objections after scheduling.

The outcome was the same for Archuleta County.

An Oct. 5 Joint Status Report filed by the AG’s office lifted the objections and ended the office’s involvement in the matter.

“We feel like that was the right decision for them to make,” said Jay English, Archuleta County Combined Dispatch manager, citing the pages of questions answered for the AG office after the initial intervention. “We justified the request and how every penny would be spent.”

On June 23, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners applied to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to increase the surcharge from 70 cents to $1.25 per month per phone line for landline, wireless and voice-over-Internet accounts based out of Archuleta County.

The county should know if the PUC approves the increase by the end of the month, English said.

ACCD also has to await the outcome of the Nov. 2 election, and whether Proposition 101 is approved by the voters, to determine if any increase approved by the PUC would be reversed.

If the PUC approves the increase and Proposition 101 fails at the polls, ACCD would be on track to implement new equipment in January (the vendor has been chosen, but the funding questions have to be answered before it can be ordered).

In the meantime, ACCD continues to deal with regularly failing equipment and the task of finding and preparing a new facility (it was determined that the EOC would be inadequate, even after renovations).

English said the Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system was recently down for two weeks, among other severe problems with the 911 and radio systems.