911 surcharge renewal passes easily

By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 10:11 am on Wednesday, May 07, 2014

STANTON — A Montcalm County Central Dispatch 911 surcharge renewal on the ballot passed easily Tuesday.

The surcharge was approved with 3,890 “yes” votes to 1,422 “no” votes, or 73 percent to 27 percent.

“I’ve been working toward this for a couple months now and you’re always nervous,” said Central Dispatch Director Tim Scott. “I’m glad to participate in this process and I’m very, very grateful to have the support of voters in Montcalm County. They’ve showed their support in a very public way and I look forward to earning that support.”

Central Dispatch Supervisor Amy Thomas expressed her gratitude for the voters support as well.

“I am ecstatic to see the surcharge was renewed,” she said “We work in a great community with a tremendous amount of support and I am proud to work here.”

The surcharge, which is a renewal from that approved by voters in 2010, is an up to $2.85-surcharge 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 Scott, dispatch collected just $2.49 per month for all three years.

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.

Now that a new five-year surcharge was approved by voters, the dispatch center will be able to undergo 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’re looking forward to those opportunities and in all honesty without the tremendous support of the voters we wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” Scott said.

Thomas agreed.

“It is exciting we are able to move forward with technological advancements and training, providing us the ability to keep working hard to continuously improve and stay up on new tools to give back to the communities and public safety as a whole,” she said. “I cannot thank the residents of Montcalm County enough for seeing the importance of this renewal.”

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

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