BELTON — Jim Reed, executive director of the Central Texas Council of Governments, on Thursday apprised the organization’s executive committee of new developments in the ongoing plan to withdraw the council from the state’s 911 funding mechanism and the attempts to create a regional law enforcement academy.
The executive committee is composed of mayors, commissioners and county judges from Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam, Mills and San Saba counties.
The plan to remove the council’s seven counties from the state 911 funding system has been in the works for months.
In December, Reed told the executive committee it was in the region’s best interests to begin the process of withdrawing from the Texas Commission on State Emergency Communication.
Under the current model, the funds generated in the council’s seven-county region via the monthly 50-cent 911 surcharge added to every phone bill in Texas goes to the Texas Commission on State Emergency Communication before being returned to the area.
The state returns between 28 cents and 35 cents to the area. The discrepancy between what is paid in to the state and what is paid out to the council translates to about $3 million a year withheld from the Central Texas area, Reed said.
If the council were to leave the state system, it would raise the amount of money available for 911 operations from $4 million per year to $7 million.
Reed said the current process is progressing along multiple tracks. The first is an attempt to create a piece of legislation that will address all of the concerns for many of the councils of governments in Texas.
He told committee members that he is also hedging bets and has been working on separate legislation that more directly addresses the needs of Central Texas.
Drafts of both bills have been completed and are ready to be presented to state legislators for the opening of the filing period in November, Reed said.
“I expect that the omnibus, or COG wide, bill will draw the most fire because of the amount of money it wants to withdraw from the state system,” Reed said. “Hopefully, that will allow our local bill to fly under the radar.”
Reed also reported on the council’s efforts to create a regional law enforcement academy, which has been in the works since January. When he first presented the topic, Reed informed committee members of the complicated history of law enforcement academies in the region.
“Central Texas College used to have certification as the regional academy,” Reed said at the January meeting. “But over time, the quality of instruction began to slip, so Killeen and Temple opened their own academies.”
Reed explained in February that for a regional law enforcement academy to be recognized by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, the state agency responsible for certifying law enforcement training, it currently has to offer full-time peace officer and jailer courses.
Central Texas College wants to “rebuild their criminal justice department” and re-enter the world of law enforcement academies by offering the jailers course, Reed said.
“Temple PD wants to do the full-time academy without the jailer courses and Central Texas College wants to do the jailer course,” Reed said in April.
To show the progress of the program, representatives from Central Texas College distributed a handout noting the success of the revamped program.
The college has held five separate classes since February and graduated a total of 71 students.
The classes included the three iterations of the basic county corrections officer course, which is three weeks long, as well as the telecommunicator and crisis communications courses, both of which are five days long.
“We’ve had a 100 percent passing rate on the state certification exams,” said Pat Boone, program coordinator for CTC’s Police Academy and Law Enforcement Center. “We keep trying to get it above 100 but it won’t go any higher.”
Reed also discussed an ongoing review of standards for street addresses throughout the Central Texas area. In order to assist emergency responders with locating homes during a crisis the Council implemented standards for street addresses.
Among those standards were the elimination of rural route box numbers and illogical numbering schemes, Reed said. However, over the years there have been changes.
The changes to standards for street addresses have not created a catastrophic situation yet, Reed said. He said that the error rate among Central Texas first responders remains “exceptionally low” when compared to other areas across the state, “but our addressing standards have slipped.”
“We are going to come back and clean some of that up,” he said. “We are going to try and get a set of standards that can be applied regionwide.”