Public Forum Discusses 911 Sales Tax

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Officers' Association endorsed a proposed 911 sales tax at a public forum on Monday night.

The forum was held by Keep Columbia Safe, a grassroots organization that focuses on crime and safety issues in the community. Keep Columbia Safe also endorses the tax and will soon start a campaign in support of it.

"It is a sales tax, which means everyone will be contributing to that, even our visitors from outside the community because when they visit and they have a need to use 911 it's there for them too," said Karen Taylor, the president of Keep Columbia Safe.

The proposed sales tax would fund updates for Boone County's 911 call center. Dwayne Carey, Boone County Sheriff, said these updates are needed because much of the call center's equipment has not kept up with current technology.

"I had the opportunity to visit the 911 center and they are using very antiquated equipment. In fact, they even go out and search Ebay for parts for the equipment they are currently using. That's how old it is," Taylor said. "I think our community deserves better than that and in a catastrophe, a disaster, we need to be prepared."

The three-eighths-cent sales tax would also fund a brand new call center and more operators to handle the amount of 911 calls.

"If I call 911 for my daughter who has a medical emergency, or someone's breaking into my house, I don't want to get an answering machine. I want to get a live person, an operator, so the calvary can respond," Sheriff Carey said.

So, out of every 100 dollars spent, residents and others shopping in Boone County will pay 38 cents for the tax.

Residents will vote for the proposed tax on a ballot on April 2. Assuming the ballot is passed, Joint Communications will immediately hire four new operators and eventually hire up to 20 additional full-time positions to meet 911 call demands.