KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. – Thursday, officials from Kalamazoo City, Township, and County, along with Western Michigan University and Portage, signed a consolidated dispatch agreement. This agreement comes almost 30 years of pleas from residents and officials to do so, Kalamazoo Sheriff Richard Fuller said.
“When I walked in the office, back in 2009, one of the first things I heard from the citizens was, ‘we need this done’; and I’m just so proud to say that we’ve got this done,” said Fuller.
According to county leaders, centralizing dispatch is more economical. Currently, the five districts spend about $7 million each year to run their dispatch centers. With rising costs, County Commissioner and Chief of Augusta Police Jeff Heppler said dispatch consolidation would level off costs and put money back into the county where it’s needed.
“We have already recognized that there’s a problem in the out-County area with dispatching fire service: we’ve got towers that out there that are in need of upgrading and repair,” said Heppler.
To help fund the central dispatch, the County Board of Commissioners approved a 911 surcharge that will cost residents and businesses 42-cents for each cellular device they own each year. Officials told FOX 17 that surcharge will generate about $1.1 million per year, and will go into effect June 2015 at the earliest.
Other than cutting costs, Fuller said centralization will cut emergency response time.
“There easily could be quicker response times on certain things,” said Fuller. “In today’s system, there’s some transferring of phone calls from one dispatch center to another dispatch center, or from one dispatch center to a medical center: that goes away with this new system.”
Fuller said Kalamazoo County’s dispatch center will be fully operational within the next five years.