KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Emergency response agencies in Kalamazoo County have worked out to how to pay for consolidated dispatch.
The Kalamazoo County Consolidated Dispatch Authority unanimously approved the funding plan for the program at a Thursday afternoon meeting. With funding settled, the five 911 centers in Kalamazoo County that currently operate independently will be moved into a central location.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said. “We’ve worked on this for 30 years. My entire time as the sheriff — way back when I was a dispatcher.”
Last year, Kalamazoo County began assessing a phone surcharge of $0.42 per line per month to pay for consolidated dispatch, but that didn’t raise enough money to cover the costs of the program. Officials tried asking residents to OK a 450 percent increase in the surcharge to raise the additional funds, but voters rejected that in May of this year.
“We knew we needed to get there, we just needed to develop some alternative funding mechanism to do it,” Jeff Troyer, executive director of the Kalamazoo County Consolidated Dispatch Authority, said.
That alternative funding mechanism is a blended funding plan that will generate the needed $4.3 million. Each of the five agencies will kick in a percentage based on their population. For example, the city of Kalamazoo will pay a larger share than Kalamazoo Township. The agencies will also pay a percentage based on their existing general fund money expenditures.
“Amongst the five entities, we have a little over $5 million of general fund monies going into 911 today,” explained Troyer. “And when you look that we’re trying to generate $4.3 million, there’s savings there.”
“What we were looking for all along is that we needed to ultimately get to one spot where there was one set of equipment with a redundancy that is the sole source of the dispatching as opposed to five different stations,” Sheriff Fuller said.
The issue of consolidated dispatch in Kalamazoo County was pushed into the spotlight after the National Transportation Safety Board issued a report in April that said better communication among dispatchers may have prevented the June 2016 crash that left five bicyclists dead. The NTSB urged expediting creation of consolidated dispatch.