Mobile County Communications District

The Mobile County Communications District operates the county's emergency radio operations network. In 2014, questions were raised about $40 million contract awarded to Harris Corporation. Subsequently, the director and board president were dismissed and retired, respectfully, after an internal investigation determined the contract had been mismanaged. BY LAGNIAPPE STAFF

Mobile County Communications District

Former 911 director awarded ‘tailored’ retirement insurance

In the middle of a controversial shift to a new healthcare coverage plan for county personnel, a state Attorney General’s opinion is pending for one Mobile County retiree who receives family insurance coverage free of charge. In October 2012, the board of the Mobile County Communications District — commonly refered to as the “911 Board” — passed a resolution extending group health insurance to “all retired MCCD employees reaching the age of 65 who are enrolled in Medicare and to cover the premiums of employees who meet those qualifications.” For more than a year, the only employee receiving that insurance package was former director George Williams, who retired from the board in April 2013. When asked about the details of the plan, an MCCD administrative assistant said Williams and his spouse — like other county retirees — are covered under the Local Government Plan, which the county switched to in April. There is no cost to Williams, but the MCCD pays a monthly premium of $960. Despite the fact that Williams was only retiree who qualified for the insurance, the MCCD got into a lengthy discussion earlier this year when a motion was made to narrow the qualifications even further. In a June meeting, board member and County Engineer Joe Ruffer proposed an amendment to the insurance policy that would extend benefits exclusively to Williams. After there was some uncertainty about...

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Fee restructure among host of changes at 911 communications center

If you own a residential or commercial landline telephone in Mobile County, you’ll notice the emergency 911 fee drop significantly on your bill for October, from $4.75 to $1.60, where it is expected to remain for the next five years. At the same time, cell phone users will see an increase, from 70 cents to $1.60. It’s part of a new rate structure, collected by the state, which will return the revenues on a set schedule back to the Mobile County Communications District to fund the county-wide 911 system and public safety radio communications. The fee is probably the most visible of changes the district has taken recently, but last month, its seven-member board, appointed by the Mobile County Commission, approved what director Gary Tanner called the first loan in its history — a $34.9 million revenue bond to update transmission towers and other communications infrastructure. In order to retire the debt, the district pledged all revenues above its operating expenses for the next seven years. “Historically this center has operated as a pay-as-you-go,” Tanner said. “Before, revenues were retained in escrow for a designated project, monies were saved, a contract was let and facilities were built. We were happy with that until the state did what they did, and we were concerned the new legislation would restrict our local authority.” Tanner said the contract, which was awarded to...

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911 upcharge only temporary, says county official

A recent 383 percent increase on the 911 surcharge included in landline phone bills in Mobile County is only temporary, according to Mobile County Communications District Director Gary Tanner. The $4.75 fee will be imposed through Sept. 31 and was necessary to establish a “base distribution amount” for reimbursement when the newly created state 911 Board takes over fee collections and disbursements. On Oct. 1, Tanner said, the fee should fall to $1.80 per month or less. Before Jan. 1, landline phones in Mobile County were charged $1.24 per month 911 surcharge while cell phones were only charged 70 cents. Tanner said the state has been pushing legislation since 2010 to takeover 911 collections and distributions, to ensure less efficient counties and districts have access to equal funding. Tanner said a Mobile delegation fought the changes through their adoption last year. “We have a great operation and everything was fine,” Tanner said. “As I understand it, the smaller [Emergency Communications Districts] had some issues with the lack of consolidation. Some counties have two or three 911 centers and there are some big players to subsidize. Jefferson County has 17 different operations centers.” The Mobile County 911 Center, on the other hand, handles dispatching for all police, fire and EMS calls for the entire county and its municipalities, about 415,000 people at any given moment plus as many as 150,000...

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About The Author

Gabriel Tynes

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Gabriel Tynes joined Lagniappe in January 2012 as a web editor and reporter. He was promoted to assistant managing editor when the paper became a weekly publication in 2014. He is a graduate of the University of South Alabama and has previous journalism and public relations experience in the Florida Panhandle and Baldwin County. He lives in midtown Mobile with his two sons.

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