911 presents millage request to council

June 24, 2014

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

SHELBY — Mason-Oceana 911 is requesting a millage during the August 5 primary, and Operations Manager Todd Myers presented the request to the Shelby Village Council Monday night.

The emergency dispatch center is requesting a .14 millage for six years due to persistent declines in local telephone line surcharge revenues, which account for 75 percent of the agency’s funding.

Mason-Oceana 911 officials have scheduled two public meetings in Oceana County and two in Mason County to further explain the millage request to community members. A meeting is set for Wednesday, July 23, at 6 p.m. at the Hart Area Public Library, and another session is scheduled for Thursday, July 24, at 6 p.m. at Grant Township Hall. In Mason County, there will be a meeting Tuesday, July 22, . at 6 p.m at the Ludington Public Library, and another session is set for Tuesday, July 29, at 6 p.m. at the Custer Township Hall.

Myers presented the council and audience members with an information sheet about the millage request. “The decline in local surcharge revenues can be attributed to two reasons,” it states.

(1)  “Monthly plans vs. prepaid plans — when the billing address is in Mason or Oceana counties, 911 collects $2.09 in local surcharge revenues every month from devices capable of dialing 911 that are on a month-to-month plan. Cellular phone coverage has greatly improved in the two-county area and many people are switching to ‘prepaid’ plans that are much less expensive. The prepaid revenue model is radically different and only a fraction of the monthly $2.09 local surcharge revenue is passed back through the prepaid model.

(2) “Occupied vs. vacant homes — both counties have much higher percentages of vacant homes compared to the state average. Only 65 percent of houses in Oceana County are occupied and 70.9 percent in Mason County compared to the state average of 84.3 percent. This is important because people owning the vacant homes are no longer paying for a land line phone, and their cell phone billing address is outside our area, meaning Mason-Oceana 911 receives $0 in local surcharges. These vacant homes contribute to the surge of of summertime incidents and in many cases, they pay $0 for Mason-Oceana 911 services.”

The information sheet states that a new millage was selected instead of increasing the local surcharge rate because:

(1)  “The 911 board feels strongly about a solution that includes seasonal and prepaid residents contributing to 911 revenue” and;

(2)  “If approved, the .014 millage proposal will cost $7 per $50,000 in taxable value ($100,000 true cash value) annually. Compared to the new millage proposal, a local surcharge increase of 90 cents would have cost an additional $10.80 per device annually.”

If the millage does not pass, the picture is bleak. “In the short term, the only area left to save money is a reduction in staffing for our two-county 911 dispatch center, putting the general public and responders at great risk. There will not be adequate staffing to handle the time proven call volumes we experience. The result is an increase in calls that first bounce to  Muskegon County, resulting in longer response times, and an increase in missed radio traffic.”

Myers said the 24-hour emergency dispatch center located in Weare Township employs 13 full-time and four part-time dispatchers, as well as three administrative employees. The average pay for a dispatcher is $17.50 per hour.