911 surcharge renewal would help purchase new technology

By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 9:57 am on Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Montcalm County Central Dispatch Center in Stanton, pictured, will be asking voters Tuesday 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. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

STANTON — Tuesday’s election ballot will include several proposals up for vote, including a 911 surcharge renewal, which would collect up to $2.85 a month per phone line in Montcalm 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.

Voters originally approved raising the 911 fee from $1.89 per line to up to $2.85, but in an attempt to be fiscally responsible, according to Central Dispatch Director Tim Scott, 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,” Scott said.

The surcharge request on Tuesday’s ballot is to renew the current rate of up to $2.85 per line for an additional five years.

“Central Dispatch is a critical component of the Montcalm County public safety infrastructure and our ability to receive the communities’ calls for assistance, collect and disseminate needed information and route the appropriate first responders to where they are needed is a vital first step,” Scott said.

With the funds raised by the surcharge since 2010, Central 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.

Dispatch Supervisor Amy Thomas said the surcharge allows the center to “continue to provide the current level of service/staffing as well as keep up with the upcoming technology advances that are going to directly affect and ultimately improve the speed and efficiency of which we are able to help the public and public safety entities.”

It also allowed for the transition of all police, emergency medical services and most firefighters to the 800 mHz radio system, Scott said.

If approved on Tuesday, 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.

“We strive to accomplish these goals in an effective and efficient manner, keeping the residents of Montcalm County safe and secure, all while operating in a fiscally responsible manner,” Scott said.

Montcalm County Central Dispatch supports eight police departments, 14 fire departments and a countywide emergency services agency.

“The upcoming vote for the 911 surcharge renewal has a direct affect on many aspects of the dispatch as a whole,” Thomas said. “This is an ever changing career that relies heavily on current as well as new technology.”

Last year, there were more than 32,000 emergency 911 calls in Montcalm County — about 88 per day — plus an additional 40,000 nonemergency calls. Of those, first responders were dispatched to 54,000 incidents in Montcalm County.

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