CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Cascade Township firefighters would be among the first on the scene if a problem were to happen at Gerald R. Ford International Airport. But to talk to other responders, they need extra radios.
“We have one radio which we can talk to Kent County,” Cascade Township Fire Chief John Sigg explained to 24 Hour News 8, pulling two portable radios out of a rescue truck. “We also have another portable we can talk to the City of Grand Rapids and Life Ambulance and the airport. ”
In some cases, messages have to be relayed by dispatcher or phone, slowing vital communications.
It’s a problem first responders in Kent County have been dealing with for years.
“Any type of incident we have or exercise, communications is always an issue,” Sigg said.
Kent County dispatchers and first responders currently have to deal with eight radio systems, creating challenges in an emergency — an emergency you may find yourself in the middle of.
There is a simple solution.
“One device will cover all the agencies that are out there,” Matt Groesser, the manager of the Kent County Emergency Communications Center, said.
But that solution costs money. So supporters are asking you to pay to fix the problems by approving a 70 cent surcharge to your monthly phone bill. You’re already paying a 45 cent surcharge to cover 911 costs in Kent County. The additional 70 cents per phone line would put the total surcharge at $1.15 a month, or an extra $13.80 a year.
“That can be anything from a cellphone to a landline, if you have voice over Internet,” Groesser said.
If approved by voters on Nov. 8, the additional funds would add three new communications towers and other technology that would allow Kent County to join the state’s public safety communications system. Kent and Muskegon are the only counties in West Michigan who aren’t on the system.
“That is inefficient and it causes us to deploy more resources in some cases than what are necessary,” Groesser said.
At $13.80 a year, supporters say Kent County phone users would still pay less than users in other Michigan counties.
While some counties in Michigan use a millage to pay for 911 service, the Kent County Board of Commissioners decided the phone surcharge was more appropriate because it is user-based.
24 Hour News 8 could not find any organized opposition to the ballot question.