KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Even though Kalamazoo County voters rejected an increase to the 911 surcharge, the county is expected to implement consolidated dispatch in about a year.
The ballot proposal that was defeated Tuesday would have raised the fee from 42 cents per line to $2.30 per line — an increase of 450 percent. The additional money was supposed to pay for a consolidated dispatch center. As it stands now, several local police agencies in Kalamazoo operate and fund their own dispatch systems.
“We asked the community, ‘How would you like to fund 911 service?’ And their answer last night was, ‘Not by use of my telephones,'” Chief Mark Barnes, the president of the Kalamazoo County Fire Chiefs Association, told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday.
Supporters say of the increased surcharge said the money would have paid for the entire consolidated dispatch system without using tax money.
“One of the reasons we came up with the surcharge mechanism is because it’s a user fee,” Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller III explained.
Consolidated dispatch is expected go live in April 2018 even without the higher surcharge. Barnes said it will either rely on existing funding or something else will have to be worked out before then.
“That’s up to the local municipalities and the governmental units, the elected bodies — they’ll make those decisions through their budgeting process,” he said.
Opponents of the increased surcharge argued that more money doesn’t necessarily mean a better dispatch system.
“We felt that this was a big money grab,” said John Cross, president of the Greater Kalamazoo Fraternal Order of Police.
The issue of consolidated dispatch in Kalamazoo County was pushed into the spotlight last month. The National Transportation Safety Board issued a report that said better communication among dispatchers may have prevented the June 2016 bicycle crash that left five people dead. The NTSB urged “expediting” creation of consolidated dispatch.