Muskegon County’s deteriorating 911 dispatch system will soon be a thing of the past.
Nearly 57 percent of the 17,563 Muskegon County voters who cast their ballots in a May 7 special election backed a 911 surcharge proposal that local police and fire officials said will provide a life-saving overhaul of a dispatch system long riddled with problems.
According to unofficial results from the Muskegon County Clerk’s Office, 10,029 individuals voted in favor of the 911 surcharge proposal, and 7,534 people voted against the measure, a nearly identical version of which had been rejected in November’s election.
With the surcharge’s approval, residents will see their per-month, per-phone surcharge for the county’s 911 system increase from 42 cents to $2.75. It will be levied on any device able to access 911, including land lines, cell phones and tablets. The surcharge is slated to last for 13 years, beginning July 1 of this year.
The $31.2 million upgrade will allow Muskegon County Central Dispatch—which last year handled about 170,000 calls to 911 and generated about 260,000 calls for public safety responders from 15 fire departments, 11 police agencies and two ambulance services—to switch from its analog system to an 800 megahurtz digital network, which 74 of Michigan’s 83 counties use.The upgrade will help Central Dispatch to address a myriad problems it currently has, including decades-old equipment and communication dead zones or severe radio static that prevent police, fire and other public safety responders from reaching Central Dispatch to, for example, call for additional help.
The upgrade will include five new radio towers; a $7.57 million equipment replacement fund; 1,700 mobile and portable radios for police, fire and ambulances; 200 new in-vehicle computers; and more.
“This is one of those things where it’s expensive; it’s for the good of society, and everyone will benefit at some point in time from an enhanced communication system for 911,” Muskegon Police Captain Shawn Bride said in a previous interview.