Montcalm County 911 surcharge won’t be levied to the max

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 1:55 pm on Tuesday, May 13, 2014

STANTON — One week ago today, voters overwhelmingly approved renewing a 911 surcharge for Montcalm County Central Dispatch up to $2.85 per line.

However, once again, the Central Dispatch Authority Board is only requesting that $2.49 per line be levied this year.

The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the recommendation at a special meeting Monday. The surcharge will affect landlines and cell phones and will begin July 1 and last through June 30, 2019.

Montcalm County voters approved the surcharge renewal with “an amazing” 73 percent of the vote last Tuesday, as Central Dispatch Director Tim Scott told commissioners.

Scott said the Montcalm County Central Dispatch Authority — which includes commissioners Patrick Q. Carr of Lakeview, Betty Kellenberger of Carson City and Ron Retzloff of Crystal Township — previously recommended the decreased charge for this year.

“With the outstanding support of the community, the Authority Board and I felt it was vital to be true to the promise that the surcharge not be viewed as a new tax or an increased tax,” Scott told The Daily News.

Montcalm County voters previously approved a $2.85 surcharge in 2010, which was also reduced to $2.49.

“It is very possible that in future years, there may be a need for using the higher amount, but right now the $2.49 gives us the security to meet all our obligations, as well as pursuing reasonably priced upgrades or improvements,” Scott said.

Those items will include expanding the dispatch center’s VHF radio system with a new transmitter in Cedar Lake, possibly expanding the emergency siren system and replacing dispatch center computers.

Bigger ticket items are on the horizon, including a new 911 telephone switch, new radio consoles and a back-up dispatch center, but Scott said those items will be evaluated and pursued in a fiscally responsible manner.

“The voters in Montcalm have now trusted us with the funding necessary to help keep them and their community safe and it is our responsibility to fulfill that trust and only use their money when absolutely needed to achieve those goals,” he said.

Commissioner Ron Blanding of Greenville observed the change in Montcalm County’s voting culture after last Tuesday’s election results. Voters approved a total of four ballot proposals, including the 911 surcharge, Commission on Aging funding, a special election millage and a Carson City-Crystal Area Schools bond.

“I think the voters of the county are to be commended for voting for all the propositions that were put before them,” Blanding said. “In the past, millages have not done well in this county. I hope people are waking up to the fact that you cannot get anything without supporting something.”

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