Community group urges residents to vote for 911 surcharge increase
Several Mount Pleasant residents came forward to urge county residents to vote in favor of a surcharge increase to 911 services at Monday night’s City Commission meeting.
The increase for the service is on the Nov. 8 ballot for residents of Isabella County. The cost will increase to $3 per month, from the $1.50 currently charged on all landline, wireless and voice over internet protocol services users.
The charge would be in effect from July 1, 2017 through Dec. 31, 2021.
The measure comes as a result of 911 services not receiving a funding increase since 2008. Revenue perpetuated by the service is decreasing and the cost to run 911 is increasing, said Glenn Feldhauser, director of the Department of Public Safety.
“The infrastructure of 911 is starting to break down,” he said. “The dispatch center doesn’t have the revenue (to stay up-to-date) with as much money as they’re spending. Something’s going to have to give there.”
Feldhauser said if a surcharge increase doesn’t happen, it’s likely some 911-related services will have to be cut.
The total cost for the surcharge increase would cost residents $36 a year — less than 10 cents per day.
Helen Lee, a Mount Pleasant resident and a member of Citizens in Support of Isabella County 911, said doubling the surcharge is a small price to pay for the services 911 provides.
“Calling 911 is essential,” Lee said. “Eight years is a long time to go without an increase in the surcharge. It’s a no-brainer for me (and my family).”
In 2015, 911 dispatchers in Isabella County received 28,301 calls. Dispatchers were sent to 58,170 incidents during that year, 46,844 of which were law enforcement incidents, 7,218 were fire incidents and more than 4,100 were Emergency Medical Service incidents.
Holly Hoffman, a human environmental studies faculty member, has a daughter with juvenile epilepsy. She said several “scary seizures” left Hoffman’s family relying heavily on the services 911 offered.
“911 services have gone above and beyond for my family and for other people in the community,” she said. “It’s time for us to do the same.”
Feldhauser said the funding increase would help repair calling and radio equipment, which becomes outdated because of new technology.
“As technology gets old, the function of 911 grows,” he said. “There’s more people (to serve) and more things happening. It’s been a long time since it was just one person answering a telephone. That doesn’t happen anymore.”
The surcharge increase will help to fund the public school emergency system and the public emergency alert system, which includes 29 outdoor warning sirens and a CodeRED Emergency alert system. It will also help current 911 systems to upgrade to next-generation 911 services, which include the ability to text 911 or send a picture of a person’s location to emergency responders.
“Moving toward next generation 911, that costs money,” Feldhauser said. “We’re going to be required to do it at some point, but that’s not funded. It essentially (comes down to) pennies.”
Other ballot proposals
In addition to the 911 millage proposal, a proposal to increase funding to the Isabella County Commission on Aging will be on the ballot.
The millage proposal asks for a funding increase of up to $1 million for all county residents. For households, that means $1 per $1,000 of taxable value for a decade.
The commission provides a number of services to elderly residents of the community. This includes delivering meals to housebound people, hosting exercise nights at their facilities on Lincoln Road and calling seniors once a day to check up on them.
If approved and levied in full, the millage will raise an estimated $1.58 million for the countywide senior citizens services and facilities in the “first calendar year of the levy,” according to a ballot pamphlet issued by the Mount Pleasant League of Women Voters.