STANTON — New Montcalm County Sheriff Mike Williams gave his first report to county commissioners during Monday’s Law Enforcement & Courts Committee meeting.
Animal Control Director Angela Hollinshead and Central Dispatch Director Tim Scott also presented reports to commissioners Monday as part of Controller-Director Robert Clingenpeel’s goal of having more people participate and communicate at monthly meetings.
Animal Control looks back at 2016
Hollinshead reported the facility had 1,048 complaints filed in 2016, including 188 calls reporting animal bites.
Animal intake numbers continue to decrease. The shelter took in 934 animals in 2016, including 611 cats and 323 dogs. The shelter received 1,199 animals in 2015, so the decreasing trend continues.
“Every year they’ve been dropping,” Hollinshead said. “I think we can credit that to a local income spay and neuter service in the area, plus we’ve been using social media and other people have been using social media to promote adoption and lost and found animals. Our ‘Friends of Montcalm County Animal Shelter’ Facebook page gets a lot of use.”
The shelter continues to see progress in its live return rate, which is defined as animals who leave a shelter alive through adoption, return to owner, transfer to another organization for adoption or any other lifesaving program. The shelter had a 96 percent live return rate in 2015, compared to a 32 percent live return rate in 2011. Hollinshead is still working on the live return rate total for 2016, but she expects the percentage to be comparable to 2015.
Animal Control euthanized 162 cats and 14 dogs in 2016.
“We are an open admission shelter and take every animal that is brought to use regardless of health or personality,” Hollinshead said. “The majority of those animals were sick or injured beyond veterinary help, as well as extremely aggressive or dangerous animals. Most of those 14 dogs that we couldn’t place were dogs that had killed other dogs, dogs that had viciously attacked people, dogs that had attacked livestock.”
Animal Control is operating with two employees — Hollinshead and Officer Autumn DeVries — and reduced kennel hours this year due to county budget cuts. The shelter is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and closed on Fridays.
“It’s been difficult with just two people, but we’re managing,” Hollinshead said. “We’ve been utilizing volunteers this past year and we’re obviously going to need to utilize volunteers more this year.”
“Do you think partially the reduction in intake numbers is due to the reduction in hours?” Commissioner Ron Retzloff asked.
“Possibly,” Hollinshead replied. “People who work day jobs just can’t get them to us as easily as they used to be.”
“I just think it should be noted,” Retzloff said. “I don’t see reductions of animals around the county. I think a lot has to do with the lesser hours we are on the road, following up on complaints and the hours open. They say, ‘Well, I can’t get out there,’ and maybe they just let the dog loose.”
Inmate video visitation
Montcalm County contracted with Securus for jail inmate video-phone visitation services starting in September 2016.
Williams reported the convenient new system is a success, with 338 phone-video visits from home and 131 video-phone visits at the jail in December 2016 alone. People can use the videophone at the jail for free, or they can pay $5 for 20 minutes to do a video-phone visit from a home computer or smartphone. That cost is an introductory price and will eventually increase to $12.99 per 20 minutes for from-home visits.
“I think it’s going to be a really good thing,” Williams said. “It’s a benefit for us because we don’t have to move inmates from the jail and it also expandsthe amount of time families and friends can visit with their incarcerated loved ones. It’s a different way of doing business. A lot of jails are doing this now. Jails are kind of a depressing place for inmates, so this gives them a little more opportunity to visit with their loved ones, their friends and families.”
Williams also reported the Montcalm County Jail is switching to Canteen Services Inc. based in Tekonsha for inmate commissary services this week. Commissioners voted to hire Canteen Services in October 2016. Canteen Services will pay 40 percent the first year, 41 percent the second year and 42 percent the third year in commission monthly to Montcalm County based on net sales of commissionable items.
Central Dispatch services
Scott updated commissioners on several new projects he is working on this year, including:
• Motorola MCC 7500, a new radio which will replace Windows XP and will also link the county to MPSCS, a statewide radio network. The radio will give officers a duress button capability and the ability to pre-empt or break into ongoing calls for an emergency announcement.
• The acquisition and installation of the Intrado VIPER system, also known as West Safety Services, which will also replace Windows XP format with an updated version of Windows and will enhance the department’s ability to incorporation Next Gen 911 capabilities, such as texting and sending photos and video.
• The Peninsula Fiber Network will host the VIPER system, allowing it to operate at a much quicker speed with multiple layers of protection by rerouting calls instantaneously in an emergency.
“We should see significant, noticeable improvements,” said Scott regarding the three projects.
Scott also reported on the progress of Smart911.com, which Montcalm County has been encouraging use of since 2015. The program is a database of information about people who dial 911 in an emergency. Participants can voluntarily submit information about their address, how many people live in a household, emergency contacts and information about disabilities, pets and vehicles at the residence.
The goal is to help dispatchers spend less time collecting information from a caller during an emergency.
“It’s much quicker to verify information than it is to try to get information out of people,” Scott said. “A lot of times when people call 911, they are hysterical. A lot of people get very confused and befuddled in an emergency. If they do smart911.com ahead of time, we can simply read their address back to them to verify.”
Several schools in Montcalm County are also participating in Smart911Facility.com, which allows school officials to submit information about entrances and exits and building blueprints to help emergency responders more knowledgeably respond to an emergency situation at school.
Scott said about 600 people are signed up for Smart911.com in Montcalm County.
“Everybody in the county can sign up for it,” he said. “If we can get up to 1,000 or 1,500, that would be fantastic.”
Scott also reported on the Code Red program, a countywide emergency verification system which allows county officials to send a message to specific groups. In a situation such as a gas leak, the program will identify a boundary map around the affected area and send a message to anyone who may be affected.