Four years ago, the residents of Montcalm County generously supported an increase in the telephone surcharge, from $1.89 to $2.85, to support the continued operation of the Montcalm County Central Dispatch. The Montcalm County Central Dispatch Authority Board, after analyzing the anticipated needs of the Central Dispatch operation, requested only a partial collection of the approved total, basically reducing the surcharge from $2.85 to $2.49.
Through sound fiscal management and a conscious attempt to eliminate any unnecessary costs, the $2.49 collected surcharge was able to meet our needs, as well as allowing for an investment in our infrastructure. The additional funds allowed the center to expand the VHF radio net, meet the requirements of the FCC-directed narrow-banding directive, make an initial investment in an outdoor emergency siren system, fund a much needed upgrade to the Dispatch Center console furniture, and made a major investment in allowing the police, EMS and fire throughout Montcalm County to convert from a VHF radio-based system to a new and much more effective 800 MHz radio system. Central Dispatch was able to fund the initial purchase of mobile and portable radios, resulting in a safer work environment for our fellow first responders as well as improving our response and service delivery to the residents of Montcalm County.
Now, four years later, that surcharge is due to expire, but the need for it has not.
The initial surcharge is due to expire on June 30. Without the renewal of the current surcharge, Central Dispatch will be forced into a 20 percent reduction of our funding. I must emphasize this is not an increase, but simply a continuance of what is currently authorized. Needless to say, that 20 percent funding cut would result in an unavoidable negative impact on Central Dispatch.
Public safety dispatching is moving ahead at a rapid pace to keep up with modern technology. A movement toward a new level of service, called NG-911 (or Next Generation 911) will incorporate new technologies to provide this new level of service to the public. This new service is intended to include the ability to text to 911, allow transfers of pictures and video to 911, along with other capabilities.
A continuation of the current surcharge will allow us to stay current with this new technology, as well as continuing the expansion of programs such as the emergency outdoor sirens.
The professionals that work at Central Dispatch strive hard, 24 hours a day, every day of the year, to keep the Montcalm County community and its residents safe and support our fellow first responders. With nearly 250 years of combined experience, no community could ask for a better dispatch team.
All that said, this team needs your continued support. We ask that you approve the continued surcharge so Central Dispatch can continue the hard work of keeping you and your family safe.
Vote yes of the continuance of the current 911 surcharge.
Timothy A. Scott is the Montcalm County Central Dispatch director.
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