Kalamazoo Co. rejects phone surcharge increase

A 911 dispatcher. (File)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Voters have said no to a 450 percent increase to the phone surcharge in Kalamazoo County that was meant to pay to consolidate dispatch for several agencies.

Sixty-eight percent of voters rejected the measure while 32 percent said yes, a difference of more than 7,000 votes.

“We felt that this was a big money grab,” said John Cross, the president of the Greater Kalamazoo Fraternal Order of Police.

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In a Tuesday night statement, the Kalamazoo County Dispatch Authority said that while the outcome was not what it had hoped for, it respected voters’ choice.

In 2016, the county began to assess a fee of $0.42 per line per month to pay for the consolidated dispatch, which is set to begin in 2018. However, the $0.42 per line per month is not enough to cover the costs of the program, so voters were asked to raise that fee to $2.30 per line. The higher surcharge would have raised about $5.8 million per year.

The dispatch authority says it will start looking into other funding methods. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the authority’s board of directors is May 11.

Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board said better communication between dispatchers for separate Kalamazoo-area agencies may have prevented a June 2016 bicycle crash that left five people dead. The federal agency urged ‘expediting’ the creation of a consolidated dispatch. Local law enforcement has rejected the notion that they could have prevented the crash, but say they support combining dispatch services.