Kent County’s 911 Surcharge

In November 2016 Kent County voters approved a ballot question to increase the 9-1-1 surcharge by $0.70/month per line* for phone service to fund 9-1-1 Dispatch technology improvements and fire dispatch operations (total $1.15/month). Residents with one phone would pay approximately $13.80 a year per phone. The County will start collecting the additional surcharge on July 1, 2017.

Kent County 9-1-1 dispatch has operated on as many as eight different radio systems in the past decade. The radio system can’t directly communicate with some other radio systems. Often during emergency situations, first responders (police, deputies, firefighters and emergency medical technicians) from different agencies can’t communicate directly with each other, even though they are on the same call for help. Some first responders carry multiple devices in order to talk to various responding agencies. This has led to lapses in communication such as calling in information on the wrong device. Kent County dispatchers can’t communicate via radio with dispatchers or first responders on the 800 MHz Michigan Public Safety Communications System. This includes Michigan State Police, Ottawa County, Allegan County, Ionia County, and Newaygo County. In incidents involving these agencies, Kent County dispatchers use telephones to communicate with other dispatch agencies, then the dispatchers communicate to first responders, which takes more time to complete.

Surcharge Graphic

The Kent County Dispatch Authority (KCDA) has signed an agreement with Motorola Solutions to provide a replacement for the public safety radio system for all governmental response agencies in Kent County. The State of Michigan operates the second largest trunked radio system in the world. It is known as Michigan’s Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS). Currently, the MPSCS operates 248 tower sites state-wide. The system purchased by KCDA will include 12 tower sites in Kent County to provide improved county-wide radio coverage. The system will be linked to the MPSCS to allow state-wide communications as appropriate. In addition to replacing the infrastructure, all police and fire agency radios (over 3770 of them) and pagers (over 800 of them) are also being replaced as part of the project. This complete radio system replacement involves the re-use of 5 existing radio towers and one water tower, lease agreements to operate equipment on 2 existing tower sites owned by private entities, and the construction of 4 new tower sites. This system will eliminate the need for multiple radio systems. Part of the surcharge will cover costs associated with countywide fire dispatch, which is more complex technologically and more labor intensive than in the past.

The Kent County Dispatch Authority (KCDA) has signed an agreement with Motorola Solutions to provide a replacement for the public safety radio system for all governmental response agencies in Kent County. The State of Michigan operates the second largest trunked radio system in the world. It is known as Michigan’s Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS). Currently, the MPSCS operates 248 tower sites state-wide. The system purchased by KCDA will include 12 tower sites in Kent County to provide improved county-wide radio coverage. The system will be linked to the MPSCS to allow state-wide communications as appropriate. In addition to replacing the infrastructure, all police and fire agency radios (over 3770 of them) and pagers (over 800 of them) are also being replaced as part of the project. This complete radio system replacement involves the re-use of 5 existing radio towers and one water tower, lease agreements to operate equipment on 2 existing tower sites owned by private entities, and the construction of 4 new tower sites. Once the installation is complete (targeted for autumn of 2018) all responders and dispatch personnel will require substantial training (up to 8 hours per person). It is anticipated that we will begin using the system in late 2018 or early 2019.

Prior to July 2017, Kent County had been collecting a surcharge of $0.45 per line since 2008. That surcharge provided approximately $3 million a year to the Kent County Dispatch Authority, which cover a portion of operating costs for Kent County and City of Grand Rapids’ dispatch centers. Technological and operational demands, along with the County’s population, have continued to grow for dispatch services, but the County’s $0.45 surcharge has remained the same. Surcharge revenues have been slightly declining over the past several years due to reductions in landline use and increases in pre-paid cellular phones. Unlike other counties that have a dedicated millage or a higher surcharge (or both) Kent County has no dedicated source of revenue.

Every phone number will be assessed. For landline users, including a business which has multiple lines, a surcharge is only assessed for the first ten lines individually, and then for every ten lines (or portion thereof) owned thereafter. For example, if a business owns 100 phone lines, the surcharge is (and would be) assessed based upon the usage of only 19 phone lines (the first 10 lines are counted, leaving 90 lines remaining; 90 divided by 10 = 9 lines; 9+10 = 19 total lines assessed).