Central Dispatch 9-1-1 to request increased funding millage

On the Nov. 6 ballot, residents of Muskegon County will be asked to increase the current 9-1-1 surcharge for radio equipment and technology upgrades needed to improve public safety communications.

At its July 17 meeting, the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners approved ballot language to increase the current 9-1-1 surcharge from $0.42 – one of the lowest in the state – to $2.75/month to improve vital infrastructure. 

According to officials at Muskegon Central Dispatch, which handles 9-1-1 calls and emergency dispatch for the entire County, current funding can no longer keep pace with the demands of technology, call volumes, Next Generation 9-1-1 requirements and growth. Currently, the Dispatch Center and 28 public safety agencies operate on equipment that will be difficult to repair by the end of the year.

The increased surcharge would fund the move to a new 800 MHz radio network, including radios for public safety agencies throughout the County. It would also fund operations, technology upgrades for hardware, software and communication infrastructure, as well as establish capital replacement fund.

The majority of Michigan counties – 74 out of 83 – have migrated or are in the process of migrating to the statewide 800 MHz radio network. Muskegon County is using a legacy system.
“Without addressing this aging radio infrastructure, our public safety teams will be an island, making communication with other public safety responders from outside the County difficult,” said Whitehall Police Chief Roger Squiers, who chairs the Muskegon County COPS Board. “Reliable communication is crucial to delivering effective and efficient emergency response service to our citizens, businesses and visitors – and ensuring the safety of our first responders.

Right now, all landlines, mobile phones and other devices subscribed to a Muskegon County address capable of placing 9-1-1 call are assessed a monthly charge of $0.42, which is used to fund emergency 9-1-1 services. Last year, Muskegon Central Dispatch processed 166,509 emergency calls, sending police, fire and ambulance services to homes, businesses and schools throughout the County.

If approved, the surcharge will increase to up to $2.75 per month for subscribed devices. Pre-paid wireless devices pay a state surcharge of 5%. For multiple line users, such as businesses, the surcharge is only assessed on the first 10 lines and then prorated.

Local surcharge funds collected can only be used for the specific propose of constructing, operating and maintaining 9-1-1 systems. If passed, the increased surcharge will be used to fund a number of projects, including transitioning to 800 MHz radios;  mobile data computers; building infrastructure costs; a revolving capital replacement fund; and fiber optic backup.

For more information on the  9-1-1 surcharge, visit https://mcd9-1-1.net/.