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Interest in and discussions about 9-1-1 emergency service for the Harris County area began in the early 1970’s. Not until 1978, however, did Harris County Commissioner Tom Bass and City of Houston Council Member Eleanor Tinsley meet to discuss the feasibility of a 9-1-1 system to serve the Harris County area. Throughout that year and into 1979, the staffs of these two elected officials gathered information on technology and explored alternate methods of administering and funding such a system.

During 1980, an informal task force, composed of representatives from the City of Houston and Harris County was established to study 9-1-1 systems. Discussions centered on the type of system to be installed; the jurisdictions to be included; the entity(ies) to administer the system; and the method by which to fund the system. During this year, Joe E. Russo, a local businessman, became actively involved in the
9-1-1 effort; part of Mr. Russo’s contribution included the funding of workshops and seminars on 9-1-1 emergency systems.

In 1982, Commissioner Tom Bass was named by the Harris County Commissioners Court as its official representative in the 9-1-1 effort. During that same year, the City-Council task force recommended the creation of a special district for administration of 9-1-1 service for Harris County, with the placement of a service fee on the phone bills of telephone subscribers to fund the system. County Attorney Mike Driscoll and City Attorney Hank Coleman provided legal assistance in the drafting of legislation to authorize creation of a special communications district. Lavergne Schwender of the County Attorney’s Office was principal author of the legislation and was later appointed as GHC 9-1-1’s Legal Counsel under an interlocal agreement with the County Attorney’s Office.

The resulting proposed legislation was introduced as House Bill 9-1-1 and as Senate Bill 606 (Gene Green and Chet Brooks, principal sponsors). Twenty-three of the twenty-six representatives and all eight senators from Harris County co-sponsored the bills.

Many governmental entities, groups and individuals worked for passage of the 9-1-1 legislation. One of the most active groups was the Harris County Firefighters Association. This group not only contributed significant time in helping to inform the community about 9-1-1, but also had educational materials printed at the Association expense. The 9-1-1 Emergency Number Act (Chapter 772, Health and Safety Code) passed the Senate on March 30, 1983, and passed the House on April 27, 1983. It was signed into law by Governor Mark White on May 10, 1983.

The Greater Harris County 9-1-1 Emergency Network was established in November of 1983, with the passage of enabling legislation and a voter referendum throughout the Harris County area. The voter referendum—to establish a communication district and assess a fee to fund the 9-1-1 service—passed throughout the Harris County area by a vote of 82.5% in favor.

The 9-1-1 system was officially cut-over by GHC 9-1-1 on January 26, 1986.

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