Voters to decide on 911 price hike

GENESEE COUNTY — Local residents will go to the polls later this year to decide to increase funding for the county 911 emergency call system. Since 2008, when the State of Michigan set the $1.24 monthly surcharge per phone for the service and it has not increased despite having added the City of Flint in August 2015.

Director of the Genesee County 911 Consortium, Dav Ackley stated there has been no increase since then, and bringing on Flint increased their staff by 42 percent, when they originally thought it would be a great deal less than that.

The reason, according to Ackley, is the increase in repeat calls for service in Flint. When a crime such as a breakin has already occurred but an officer needs to respond to take an official report. Flint doesn’t have enough officers to handle those calls in addition to performing patrol duties, he indicated.

Having crunched the numbers, Ackley has found their expenditures will exceed revenues for the next five years, and although they have a $10,000,000 fund balance, they are also in the position where their current technology is obsolete and needs to be replaced.

As anyone who has every bought a computer can likely attest to, this is a common problem and can be very expensive. They are currently in need of replacing all of their 800 megahertz radios which are at their end life cycle, and are no longer supported by the manufacturer (Motorola).

It is estimated their replacement cost, based on current State of Michigan Bid Pricing, would be $7,700,300. This would provide 2,100 portable radios, including the hand held which officers carry, as well as a unit for each car and a base radio, or control station located at each police department.

Surcharge funding is used for all central dispatch operational needs as well as Capital purchases (equipment and infrastructure), and is their only source of income.

The Genesee County Board of Commissioners have not yet approved the ballot language for the measure to be on the May 2 ballot but will be voting on it later this month. If passed, this would raise the local 911 surcharge to $1.86 per device per month, an increase of only 62 cents per month. This will prevent 911 from operating with an annual deficit.

If it doesn’t pass, the fund will be depleted in approximately 4 years and will need to be supplemented by other sources and it is expected to generate $2.6 million annually in revenue to prevent the deficit.

Many local boards and councils are currently considering, or have already passed a resolution to allow the matter on the ballot.

In addition, the Fire paging system is in need of upgrade to 800MHz or a replacement of the VHF system at an estimated cost of $500,000.00. If nothing is done, they will have to “limp along” on equipment no longer supported by Motorola.

Information from the consortium states, “We live in a culture that cannot be caught without 911 and able to respond to domestic or foreign threats against our citizens. Genesee County is the 5th largest county in the State of Michigan (410,849 population), it has a call volume of 522,173 — approximately 1,400 calls per day.

“The more calls you have the more people you need,” Ackley stated. “The bottom line is we’re technology based, which means our equipment can be obsolete within seven years and there is nothing we can do about that have to live with and plan for it. Our goal is to answer every call.”

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