EUREKA TOWNSHIP — The Montcalm County Central Dispatch Center will be asking voters at a special election May 6 to renew a 911 surcharge which will collect up to $2.85 per phone line in the county.
The surcharge, which is a renewal from that approved by voters in 2010, is charged monthly to each phone registered in the county, both landlines and cell phones. The Eureka Township Board heard a presentation about the surcharge from Montcalm County Central Dispatch Deputy Director Tim Scott on Monday evening.
“It is charged against every phone, every month, that is what it amounts to,” Scott said.
Three years ago, voters approved raising the 911 fee from $1.89 per line to up to $2.85, but in an attempt to be fiscally responsible, Scott said, dispatch collected just $2.49 per month for all three years.
“We didn’t have any crisis, so it remained at $2.49 for the three years,” he said.
The surcharge request on May’s ballot is to renew the current rate of up to $2.85 per line for an additional five years.
“We want to give Montcalm County the safest public safety that we can have,” Scott said.
With the funds raised by the surcharge since 2010, dispatch expanded its VHF radio coverage to comply with the FCC narrow-band directive, completed initial stages of an outdoor emergency siren system and updated equipment and consoles in the dispatch center.
“The biggest thing we put those funds toward was to allow the transition of all our police, EMS and most firefighters to the 800 mHz system,” Scott said.
If approved in May, the renewed surcharge would fund software and computer updates for the center; upgrades for radio consoles; upgrades for the 911 telephone system; allow for the transition to “Next Generation 911,” which would allow the receipt of texts, video and other broadband data; and install a radio antenna near Vestaburg to improve radio coverage.
It will also allow dispatch officials to prepare for unexpected costs, Scott added.
Montcalm County Central Dispatch supports eight police departments, 14 fire departments and a countywide emergency services agency.
In 2013, there were more than 32,000 emergency 911 calls, which is about 88 per day, and 40,000 more non-emergency calls. Of those, first responders were dispatched to 54,000 incidents in Montcalm County.