Harford residents could pay 25 cents more a month on their C&P Telephone Co. bills beginning in the spring, if the Maryland Public Service Commission approves the County Council's decision to raise the 911 fee.
The council voted 7-0 Tuesday to raise the county 911 fee to 50 cents per month from the 25 cents per month now charged.
The Public Service Commission will now review the increase. If approved by the PSC, the fee increase would cover about $427,000, or 71 percent, of the $600,000 annual operating costs of the county's emergency response system, which handles calls for police, fire, ambulance and disaster emergencies.
James M. Jewell, the county treasurer, said the increase is needed because of a change in the 911 law.
"The state had collected 10 cents a month per customer in a separate charge on the phone bill, and the state had been giving that money back to the county," said Jewell.
But beginning Jan. 1, the state will keep all the money collected from the 10 cent monthly surcharge, to create a trust fund that will be used to pay for upgrading emergency phone equipment in subdivisions that can't afford the cost of doing so themselves. The upgrades would give emergency response workers the ability to locate the exact address and phone number of a 911 caller, said Jewell.
Without a fee hike, Harford stands to lose $50,000 in revenue by July 1, 1991, he added.
The current 25-cent fee covers about 50 percent of the actual operating costs of the 911 system. Additional costs created by the 911 service are paid for with property tax revenues, Jewell said.
"The Public Service Commission is likely to approve the fee increase, but the charge probably will not show up on people's telephone bills until March," he predicted.