911 surcharge on upcoming ballot in Kalamazoo County

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KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. — Residents in Kalamazoo County may see an increase in one of their monthly bills. That’s if they vote "Yes" to a 911 surcharge that officials said would help them respond more efficiently to emergency situations.

“Seconds saves lives,” said Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller. “If we are able to shave seconds we’re going to save more lives. We know this. This is proven across the world. Kalamazoo County is slow to the game.”

Sheriff Fuller said the proposal seeks to consolidate all of the counties dispatch centers into one location. Currently city, township and county agencies are housed at the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety headquarters on Crosstown Parkway. The other two — Western Michigan Campus Police and the Portage Police Department — operate alone.

“The goal is to get them all into one building, under on structure and one vision, one mission,” said Jeff Thoyer, Executive Director for Kalamazoo County Consolidated Dispatch Authority. “Individuals in the same room working toward that same goal within the same structure will create efficiencies.”

Currently residents pay a .42 cent surcharge, Sheriff Fuller said. However under the new proposal it’ll increase to $2.30 for each phone a person owns that has access to 911, mainly cell phones and landlines. Excess monies will be used to upgrade their dispatch systems which right now is a mix of fiber, copper and microwave.

“We know today that with those copper wires, that we talk about, there is failure anytime there’s water in the lines, anytime the lines get cut,” said Sheriff Fuller. “Well we want a system where the line can’t get cut because it’s an airwave.”

The vote conveniently comes a week and a half after the National Transportation Safety Board report was released about their investigation into the bike crash that killed 5 people in June 2016. They suggested that consolidated communication between city, township and county agencies could have possibly prevented the crash from happening.

Sheriff Fuller, along with the two local police chiefs, disagree. He believes the dispatchers did everything right that night. And believes that a new consolidated center, housing all five agencies, will help them operate better.

“We are going to go forward with the consolidation,” said Sheriff Fuller. “We are going to make sure that it is a system that is one that saves time and saves lives.”

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