- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Talks are underway to merge the Crete and Beatrice 911 centers to save money and improve emergency response.

The Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1DYMgc4 ) reports that the discussions have been going on for two months.

According to Crete City Administrator Tom Ourada, officials began thinking of the possibility of merging with another 911 center when faced with increasing labor and equipment costs, as well as declining federal telephone excise tax revenue on local phone service.

Ourada talked to the Crete City Council Tuesday about the budget challenges, 911 center costs and what would happen to 911 emergency services in the future.

Crete officials reached out to Lincoln last year and were told that consolidating with Beatrice’s center might be an option.

“It doesn’t seem to be cost-efficient to try and maintain two 911 centers,” Crete City Administrator Tom Ourada said.

Crete pays for its center with city taxes and federal telephone excise tax funds, but the city only gets federal tax revenue from landline phones with the 826 prefix. Ourada said that revenue has decreased by 10 percent since more people are relying on cellphones.

The Saline County Sheriff’s Office has been invited to join the discussion.

Saline County is one of two counties that have a dual 911 center. The centers in Saline are operated by the Crete Police Department and the sheriff’s office in Wilber. It gets most of the excise tax revenue, which includes all other prefixes in the county and cellphone users.

Crete would like to make a decision about the future of its 911 center before Oct. 1, Ourada said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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