CLINTON COUNTY — On March 10, voters in Clinton County will decide whether to approve a millage proposal that would generate approximately $2.5 million per year to finance the day-to-day operations of the county’s 911 center.
The 10-year, 0.85 mill proposal comes before voters as the county grapples with an aging public safety radio system that has reached its end of life and will no longer be supported by the manufacturer after December 2021, according to Clinton County Central Dispatch Director Christine Collom.
If approved, the millage proposal would be coupled with a decrease in the county’s voter approved monthly surcharge for 911 operations — from $2.75 per device capable of dialing 911 in the county to $1.50 per device — with funds from the millage supporting the day-to-day operations of the 911 center and revenue from the surcharge covering the $8 million cost of upgrading existing radio infrastructure to join the Michigan Public Safety Communication System (MPSCS).
“We don’t (currently) have the interoperable communications with our neighbors (bordering counties) that we need,” Collom said. “You’ve got some departments that respond into other counties and then we have some departments that come in and respond in our county. We have to have that ability to all talk together, and so some of our departments actually carry two radios.”
In 2018, Clinton County’s public safety agencies began exploring potential options to alleviate the challenges of the current public safety radio system. As a result of those discussions, public safety officials recommended joining MPSCS, which would provide seamless communications amongst the county’s first responders and would also improve the interoperability with bordering counties, all of which currently have — or are in the process of transitioning to — MPSCS, according to Collom.
“It became very clear quickly that partnering with the state and with our local bordering counties was going to be important,” Collom said. “For us to move forward, to give us a sustainable system, a stable system and a system that we can grow with in the future, this (joining MPSCS) was going to be our best option.”
Clinton County Central Dispatch is currently funded by a voter approved monthly surcharge of $2.75 per device capable of dialing 911, though revenue from the monthly surcharge has decreased annually by 2 percent in recent years due to the loss of landlines, according to Collom.
Under the current voter approved surcharge, a household with three devices pays approximately $99 per year. With the proposed millage and subsequent surcharge decrease, the average household in the county (with a taxable value of $85,000) with three devices would pay approximately $126 per year combined, reflecting a $27 per year increase, according to Collom.
In a press release, Clinton County Sheriff Larry Jerue noted the importance of efficient communication amongst first responders.
“In order to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and our first responders, it is imperative that our 911 system is capable of receiving and transmitting high quality communications,” Jerue said in the release.
If approved by voters, the monthly surcharge decrease would take effect in July. The new millage amount would not go into effect until December.