911: Where Has All The Money Gone? – QNS.com

911: Where Has All The Money Gone?

An enhanced 911 system might have saved the lives of the four teenage boys lost off the Long Island Sound and was instead used to fund state police activities including dry cleaning, lawn mowing and travel expenses. These were some of the charges stated at a hearing this week, in which Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. blasted the governor for using city money intended to save lives for out-of-city expenditures.
"Had this money from New York City residents been used as the law required, this tragedy may have been averted," Vallone said. "Instead, the state took our money and used it to fund a service that New York City residents dont use. This follows a long pattern of neglect by New York State of New York City residents. I am calling on the state to now do what it should have done years ago and use our money to protect our citizens."
According to Vallone, a 70-cent monthly cellular telephone surcharge was established in 1991 in order for the state to offset costs related to statewide operation of a cellular emergency telecommunications system. Since that time, the state has collected $162 million in revenues from this surcharge, including $42 million last year alone. Approximately half of this money has come from New York City residents. And none of it was spent on New York City.
An audit, completed by the office of NYS Comptroller Carl McCall, showed that the money that was expected to be allocated toward the enhancement of cell phone emergency systems, has been used by the state police, including some of the aforementioned personal luxuries.
"This is one of the most egregious budget gimmicks… uncovered," the audit states. "This audit clearly shows that the governor is using cellular surcharge funds to finance ongoing operations of the state police rather than using the money to develop the 911 system."
While this issue has been argued for years, and is one of many reasons Vallone has requested a study to discuss the idea of New York City seceding from New York State, it gained statewide attention on January 24, when four teenagers are believed to have drowned off of City Island in the Long Island Sound, after placing a 911 call. The dispatchers could not locate the call and therefore took 14 hours before a rescue crew began its search.
At the press conference held on February 11 at City Hall, Vallone was pleasantly surprised to find that the police intend to set up a temporary 911 system, so that the location of the caller can be identified. This system originally was not expected until 2005.
"People I have spoken to are as outraged as I am," Vallone said. "After September 11 and all the tragedy we have faced, you would expect now more than ever that the state would be concerned with making sure that our emergency systems are as enhanced as our technology will allow." What infuriated Vallone however, was that Governor Pataki not only did not send a representative to the meeting, but when asked about the delay in implementing an enhanced 911 system, the governor stated that it was not worthy of a comment.
"I guess New York City is not worthy of an explanation," Vallone said. "And I guess the families of the victims are not entitled to know why the safety of New York citizens is not a priority of the state."
Councilman Eric Gioia was also outraged at the lack of care by the state toward New York City. "This is one more way in which Albany is shortchanging the city. We send too much and receive too little. This City Council will not stand by the status quo that we have experienced for much too long."

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