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Jan. 10 – Deal to file legislation for creation of Local Government 9-1-1 Authority; DeLoach on Advisory Bd.

Category: Local Govts & Politics

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

January 10, 2018 – Back in June, Gov. Nathan Deal announced the creation of the Local Government 9-1-1 Authority by Executive Order, a new Authority to be housed under the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA/HS).  The Governor’s office stated that that he would introduce legislation codifying the Authority during the 2018 legislative session, after vetoing the bill that passed through both houses of the General Assembly in 2017 session. 

It’s an issue of local interest, because the 911 system in Chatham County is costing taypayers $2 million a year over current revenues.  

“For some time now, state and local officials have been exploring solutions to modernize our 9-1-1 system and improve our communications network,” said Deal. “This past session, legislation creating a semi-autonomous body to oversee 9-1-1 operations, fee collections and disbursements came to my desk. While SB 222 attempted to address several current challenges, many of which I’ve incorporated into this executive order, it presented me with other concerns.”  So, Deal vetoed the bill.   

“As I explained in my veto statement, the lack of state oversight and coordination could hamper joint emergency response efforts, and the authority would also go unfunded for two years. However, I also recognized the need for better statewide service and announced my intention to create a Local Government 9-1-1 Authority that would be housed at and funded through GEMA/HS. I’m grateful for the input and recommendations provided by local emergency response workers and officials, legislators and other stakeholders and look forward to working with the Authority moving forward.”

Part of his Executive Order was the creation of a Local Government 9-1-1 Authority Advisory Board, comprised of state agency heads, local elected officials and representatives from the public safety and law enforcement communities, as recommended by SB 222.  Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach sits on the Advisory Board, which has met once so far, he states “Like everything else, there isn’t enough money,” he said in an interview today.   The City of Savannah and Chatham County jointly fund a shared 911 system.  Customers with cell phones are charged $1.50 a month on their bill that funds the 911 system in their county, but even with the growth in cell phone usage, costs are exceeding revenues.

There are significant issues, as well, in paying for 911 coverage in rural Georgia counties where cell phone ownership and usage is not as prevalent.   Both the Governor, and the Legislature is strongly focused on growing Georgia’s more rural counties, and bringing infrastructure to those counties that have been losing jobs and population.

The role of the Director of the new Authority was also a recommendation of SB 222, and GEMA/HS Director Homer Bryson appointed Michael Nix to fill this role.Nix is the local government liaison and deputy director of executive appointments in the governor’s office. He works closely with local government officials, agencies and other organizations to ensure local issues are addressed and coordinate effective responses to their needs, according to Deal’s office.

During natural disasters or in a state of emergency, Nix serves as GEMA/HS liaison supporting External Affairs efforts, including coordinating with local officials and media outlets to provide the public with timely and accurate lifesaving information.

The Authority’s Advisory Board members include:

Colonel Mark McDonough, Commissioner, Department of Public Safety

Lynne Riley, Commissioner, Department of Revenue

Cheryl Greathouse, Instructional Services Division Director, Georgia Public Safety Training Center

Greg Whitaker, Director, Douglas County E-911

William Wright, Manager, Barrow County E-911

Ted Wynn, Public Safety and Emergency Management Director, Bulloch County

Charlotte Nash, Chairman, Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners

Peter Olson, County Manager, Bartow County

Eddie DeLoach, Mayor, City of Savannah

John McDonough, City Manager, City of Sandy Springs

Michael Wall, Vice President of Government & Regulatory Affairs, Comcast

Kevin Curtin, Assistant Vice President of Legislative Affairs, AT&T

Billy Hancock, Sheriff, Crisp County

Billy Grogan, Police Chief, City of Dunwoody

Joel Baker, Fire Chief, City of Atlanta

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