GONZALES — Under an agreement approved Monday to help fund the 911 center operated by the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, the city of Gonzales will pay a user fee of $5 per month for each of 238 radios used by its police officers, firefighters and public works personnel.
The user fee, generating $14,280 a year, will be collected by the Ascension Parish Communications District, which has a board of representatives from municipal and parish entities and handles all radio communications, Gonzales City Clerk Clay Stafford said.
“We buy the radios and they’ve been providing the service for free,” Stafford said.
Preston Landry, district chief with the Gonzales Fire Department and a member of the parish Communications District board — also locally called the 911 District — said the district is in charge of disbursing funds for the maintenance of the 911 center that are collected as a monthly tariff of approximately $1 on every phone bill, whether landline or wireless, in the parish.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office funds the lion’s share, up to $2 million annually, for the operation of the 911 center located in Gonzales, Sheriff Jeff Wiley said in a phone interview Monday.
Wiley, who chairs the 911 District, said that in addition to the funding by the Sheriff’s Office, the 911 District disburses approximately $650,000 per year to the maintenance costs of the center, but maintenance costs are rising at the same time that more and more people are getting rid of their landline phones, and instead relying solely on their cellphones.
“With equipment getting older and maintenance costs after warranty, we were barely making ends meet” for maintenance, he said.
The collection of a monthly fee on each radio used by government agencies has been discussed over the past year, Wiley said, and was approved by the Ascension Parish Communications District last month.
“We went to all the stakeholders in Ascension” with the proposal, Wiley said. “We feel it’s a reasonable request.”
Also on Monday, the city received high marks on its financial audit for the fiscal year ending May 31.
Total revenues were approximately $19.4 million, with expenses of approximately $18.2 million.
The city’s general fund balance at the end of the last fiscal year was approximately $11.3 million.
“That’s excellent for a city your size,” said Mike Schexnayder, CPA with the firm Postlethwaite & Netterville, which did the audit.