Pharr joins Valley cities in creating 9-1-1 district

Pharr city officials have given their stamp of approval on creating the Rio Grande Valley Regional 9-1-1 Emergency Communications District, becoming one of 27 municipalities across Hidalgo and Willacy counties that support its creation.

The approval came during Pharr’s Nov. 2 city commission meeting.

“As you all know, everybody pays 50 cents on their cellphones, their landlines for 9-1-1 services statewide,” interim City Manager Edward M. Wylie said during the meeting. “Right now the money goes to the state, the state gets their cut, and it comes back. This communications district, created under the development council, will funnel money — instead of going to the state, it will go straight to the communications district, then they’ll distribute it.

“In essence, we’re cutting out the state, and we’re getting more money.”

Manuel Cruz, executive director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, said this is one of many programs under LRGVDC that manages 9-1-1 program functions for 16 public safety answering points, or PSAP.

“It’s basically a fancy name for 9-1-1 dispatch centers,” Cruz said. “We pretty much are the people behind the scenes who keep up with the information and data that the 9-1-1 system needs to provide the connection if and when a citizen calls 9-1-1.”

Texas Senate Bill 1108 and House Bill 3462 permit regional planning commissions to establish regional emergency communications districts. If the LRGVDC gets unanimous approval from the local municipalities, the 9-1-1 program will be more of a local controlled effort.

“We believe that there’s a positive opportunity for the participants within the region LRGVDC program to have a more real and larger impact, not only in policies but also fiscal matters than there is currently with the state program,” Cruz said. “We see a lot of potential advantages and opportunities that would be beneficial in creating an ECD (Emergency Communications District).”

As Wylie said at the meeting, 50-cent bills from cellphones and landlines are collected and sent to the state, which is then allocated to one of 24 regions based on geographical area population.

“We don’t always receive the full amount, obviously,” Cruz said. “There’s a lot of red tape that comes with requesting certain items. Who better to know what this region needs than local representatives?”

With the ECD, the funds would be remitted to the local district instead of to the state, essentially cutting out the middle man.

“All the funds would be collected more directly, which is beneficial and a lot faster so we can use them right away,” Cruz said. “We would determine the needs of the region. With the creation of the Emergency Communications District, it’s a governance that has to be created with elected officials from Hidalgo and Willacy County.”

With last week’s approval, Pharr became the 14th municipality out of 27 to approve the resolution for the ECD.