Haines Borough seal

Haines Borough seal

The Haines Assembly approved a new surcharge for 911 services at its meeting Tuesday.

Haines residents will see their cellular and landline phone bills increase by about $1.50 each month to help fund a new 911 call system.

That move was approved by the Haines assembly Tuesday, but not unanimously.

State law allows local governments to enact up to a $2 a month surcharge to fund enhanced 911 systems. The Haines Borough will collect $1.51 a month for each wireless and landline phone billed to a borough address.

Enhanced 911 systems provide call back and caller location information to dispatchers, as well as more digital features compared to older systems. The borough used a grant to install a new 911 system recently. Funds collected from the surcharge can be used to maintain the system and future upgrades.

The borough’s dispatch center received 474 911 calls in 2014.

Most members of the assembly supported the surcharge. But George Campbell said it should be budgeted as a tax or tax increase in the regular budget.

“I’m not saying not setting up the fund; I’m saying where we’re going after the money is inappropriate,” Campbell said. “We have an operating budget for our equipment; we’ve gone to a higher dollar piece of equipment. Our managers, our department heads need to do a better job of budgeting. There’s already thousands of dollars being spent. They just need to budget better.”

Assembly member Diana Lapham said she sees it differently. She said the surcharge is not too much ask of residents to be able to maintain the equipment.

“I see it as, we have a new asset that we’ve brought into the borough and if we don’t charge to help offset the maintenance, the upgrading — to me it’s the same category as the waste water treatment plant,” Lapham said. “We need to be setting money aside in order to be able to deal with our facilities, our assets in a timely manner.”

The surcharge goes into effect on residents’ phone bills on Aug. 1.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, two assembly members addressed the actions of some fellow members at a recent committee meeting.

At a Government Affairs and Services committee on June 1st, the group heard a concern from resident Mike Denker about whether borough policy aligns with borough code in deciding what appears on the assembly meeting agendas. Some committee members were frustrated with Denker’s presentation. Campbell used a profanity in describing Denker’s argument and Mike Case called it a waste of time.

On Tuesday, Lapham addressed the assembly, without specifically mentioning the committee meeting.

“We’ve been elected to the assembly to get a job done,” Lapham said. “But we are also here to listen to the concerns of the community and each other. Not only do we represent the voters who voted for us, we represent, and it’s hard, the ones that didn’t vote for us. In order to be respected, we have to be respectful. We lead by example.”

Ron Jackson agreed with Lapham and said he was upset at the accounts he’d heard of the committee meeting. He suggested trainings for the assembly in dealing and working with the public.