December 3, 2018

Ballot Proposal Information

9-1-1 Surcharge Request

Ballot Proposal for May 7, 2019 

On the May 7 ballot, residents of Muskegon County will be asked to increase the current 9-1-1 surcharge for radio technology upgrades needed to improve public safety communications.

Current funding can no longer keep up with the demands of radio technology, call volumes, Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) requirements and growth. Currently, the Dispatch Center and 28 public safety agencies operate on outdated equipment that will be difficult to repair by the end of the year.

Muskegon Central Dispatch 9-1-1 receives a monthly surcharge on landlines, mobile phones and other devices capable of accessing 9-1-1 to fund emergency services. Residents will be asked to increase the current 9-1-1 surcharge from $0.42 – one of the lowest in the state - up to $2.75 per month to improve vital public safety communication infrastructure.

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

If approved, the surcharge rate is set annually, not to exceed $2.75 per month without voter approval. MCD 9-1-1 can request the surcharge be set at a lower rate depending on funding needs.

Important Infrastructure Needs

Any local surcharge funds collected can only be used for building, operating and maintaining 9-1-1 systems. If passed, the increased surcharge revenue will be used to fund a number of projects, including:

  • Radio - Transitioning to a statewide 800 MHz radio system, which is the same system use by 74 out of 83 counties in the state, including the State of Michigan Police.
  • Mobile Data Computers - Current MDCs are no longer serviceable and parts are not available. MDCs are instrumental in assisting responders in their day-to-day operations as 9-1-1 can provide instance information about an incident.
  • Building - There will be building infrastructure cost as the current leased space in downtown Muskegon is not sufficient to house the new 800 MHz equipment, a tower and NG9-1-1 equipment.
  • Revolving Capital Replacement Fund - A capital fund will be established to cover replacement costs for radios, computers, data storage, redundant off-site equipment, 9-1-1 phone equipment, software, NG9-1-1 technology and associated maintenance costs.
  • Fiber Optic Backup - Securing a fiber optic backup will provide the necessary redundancy for the fiber optic network utilized by all public safety entities within the County.

“Without addressing this aging infrastructure, our public safety teams are an island unable to communicate with anyone outside the County. In an emergency, when seconds count, having outdated equipment that is not reliable or repairable could mean the difference between life and death.”

–Whitehall Police Chief Roger Squiers

COPS Chairman

Why do we need to have a new radio system?

Our current radio system utilizes outdated technology that will be difficult to repair by the end of the year.  It’s like listening to cassette tapes when everyone else has switched to music streaming services. Switching to the statewide 800 MHz radio system will allow for better coverage for responders, additional talk channels and the ability to communicate via radio effectively with first responders in surrounding counties.  Having a quality, reliable communication infrastructure is crucial in delivering first-rate public safety service to the residents and visitors.

The majority of Michigan counties – 74 out of 83 counties – have already migrated to the statewide 800 MHz network.  The public safety teams in our communities will become a radio island if we remain with the current VHF analog network.  Communications is the number one priority during any incident.  It must be reliable, redundant, sustainable, and allow Muskegon County first responders to communicate with peers from other municipalities, counties and the state to ensure the safety of our responders and citizens.

“It’s not enough to dial 9-1-1 and have your call answered and your situation addressed. Ensuring optimum safety means the radio systems work cohesively so that our first responders are ready when a disaster or emergency strikes.”

- Muskegon Charter Township Fire Chief Dave Glotzbach

Chairman of MCD 9-1-1 Coordinating Committee

Who will the surcharge apply to?

All landlines, mobile phones and other devices subscribed to a Muskegon County address capable of accessing 9-1-1 will be assessed a monthly surcharge.  Pre-paid wireless devices, are subject to a state surcharge of five percent.

For users with multiple lines (such as a business), the surcharge is only assessed on the first ten lines individually, and then prorated for additional lines. For example, if a business owns 100 phone lines, the surcharge assessment on 19 phones lines (the first 10 lines are counted, leaving 90 lines remaining; 90 divided by 10 = 9 lines; 9 + 10 = 19 total lines assessed).

When will this amount take effect?

Collections could start July 1, 2019, with full collections beginning October 1, 2019, if approved by the voters.

Will this amount ever change?

If approved, the surcharge rate is set annually, not to exceed $2.75 per month without voter approval. MCD 9-1-1 can request the surcharge be set at a lower rate depending on funding needs.