The following is an letter received from a knowledgeable individual who is concerned about how the millions of dollars received from E911 taxes are spent. Only the article’s format has been modified, none of the text has been modified. So, the statements/opinions are those of the author. However, we have received many emails about this subject asking us to write a story. We have decided to published this letter instead.
Note: We have not verified this information, but other sources have substantiated the allegations
Your 911 dollars:
In September 2016, I wrote a letter the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regarding an article published by the Colorado Springs Independent on a tariff (tax) increase request on telephones in El Paso and Teller Counties. To clarify you currently pay 70 cents a month to 911 for each telephone line/number you have. The El Paso Teller E911 Authority had requested an increase to $1.90 a month. That letter was the first of three communications with the PUC from me. The purpose of the letters was two-fold: to notify the PUC that the money received specifically by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was not used to hire 911 personnel; and the need to hire additional personnel. In the follow up communication with the PUC, I advised them I had spoken to Sheriff Elder in November 2016 regarding the use of the money they received from the El Paso Teller E911 Authority. Sheriff Elder stated he had reinvested that money into his 911 center and there were 60 people assigned to the center. In March 2017, I submitted a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office inquiring about the number of personnel that were Authorized Full Time Employees for the 911 Center. For background purposes, during the period in which the money was received by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, there were 42 Authorized Full Time Positions. In December 2014, when then Sheriff Maketa left office, there were 41 Authorized Full Time Positions. This shows ONE authorized full time person was added to the center during the time the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office received close to a MILLION DOLLARS from the El Paso Teller E911 Authority for personnel according to the article by the Colorado Springs Independent. In August 2016, with the addition of 9 personnel from the City of Fountain’s 911 center (which consolidated with the Sheriff’s Office), the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office 911 staffing increased to 51. Of course that number did not improve the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office’s ability to answer 911 calls because of the workload (calls for service for the City of Fountain) that came with those personnel. Additionally, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office promoted two people to administrative positions which in essence reduced the number of personnel to answer calls. You will note that information in the response from Larry Borland, Administrator, with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office where he reports as of February 2017 there are now 54 personnel. You can clearly see that in November of 2016, there were 51 personnel (with the addition of Fountain and no other increase in Sheriff’s Office staffing) not 60 personnel.
What the public may or may not know:
- The agencies receiving the money are staffed with personnel paid through your sales and property taxes, not from 911 funds UNLESS they hired additional people during the time they received the money. They did not.
- The El Paso Teller 911 Authority pays for everything other than where the centers are housed and associated costs for housing the centers, unless there have been changes in the last few years.
- Tariff or tax, it is the same. The money is taken from you with the approval of a government entity. In the case of the PUC, the public does not vote on the tariff/tax increase.
- What happened to the money these agencies received?
- What the public does know is it takes people to answer 911 calls. If anyone has ever called 911 to hear it ring for what seems like an eternity knows the frustration and anxiety it creates.
- It is extremely misleading for a news agency to state the “911 Authority” runs any center. They do not. Each agency utilizes software and equipment funded by your 911 fee and that money is managed by the 911 Authority. Each agency has been and is currently responsible for the staffing of personnel funded by taxes you are paying.
What the public should know:
- The centers are severely understaffed.
- How your money was and is spent for 911.
- The PUC does look at the feedback from the community and applies that in their decision making. In the case of the requested increase, the amount requested was cut in half.
- You will be paying more soon.
- The El Paso Teller E911 Authority will be providing money to agencies for personnel after they begin receiving the increased revenues from the tariff. The money they receive should be for ADDITIONAL personnel. To fund existing personnel, which you already pay for, is not helping the staffing problems.
- Stay informed on how that money is spent. The El Paso County E911 Authority did recently discuss and it is stated they will make this a requirement.
When I retired as the Communications Manager for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, I asked one thing: Take care of my people. Service and community first, that is all I ask.
Elizabeth Brown, Retired El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Communications Center
( Supporting Documents )
Subject: Communications staffing
Liz, here are the answers to your questions:
1. How many authorized full time employees were assigned to Communications prior to the consolidation of Fountain dispatch. 42 (as of 8/3/16)
2. The number of authorized full time employees added to Communications with the consolidation of Fountain dispatch. 9 (hired 8/9/16)
3. The total number of authorized full time employees for 2017 in Communications. 54 (as of 2/17/17)
3. The number of working part-time employees assigned to dispatch during 2015, 2016 and 2017. 2015 = 2, 2016 = 1, 2017 = 1
As you know, the actual staffing varies based on terminations, resignations and retirements. We have remodeled the communications area to accommodate call-takers and will start hiring up to ten people as reliable funding becomes available.
Administrator, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office
End of Letter
Note: We have not verified this information, but other sources have substantiated the allegations.