IRON MOUNTAIN - A new millage for 9-1-1 dispatch services will be on the November ballot in Dickinson County.
As approved Monday by the county board, the referendum seeks a levy of 0.4 mills for three years, beginning in 2012, for the sole purpose of operating and equipping an enhanced 9-1-1 system.
The referendum comes as the 9-1-1 dispatch console is in need of replacement and the expense for staffing and maintaining the center drains the county's general fund.
911 Dispatcher Chris Erkkila of Loretto takes a call at the Dickinson County Dispatch Center at the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office in Iron Mountain.
Theresa Peterson/Daily News Photo
"We've been talking about this for several years," said Sheriff Scott Celello. "The time has come."
Celello said the E-911 budget currently requires $300,000 annually from the county general fund, in addition to $288,000 generated from surcharges on telephone lines and cellular phones.
The cost to replace the console equipment, which is more than 20 years old and six years beyond its design life, has been estimated at $360,000. A millage of levy of 0.4 mills would generate an estimated $375,000 in its first year.
Commissioners debated whether to seek a three-year or a five-year levy, with Joe Stevens, Ann Martin and Frank Smith voting for the three-year proposal.
Board Chairman Henry Wender and Commissioner John Degenaer Jr. voted in the minority to seek a five-year levy.
Smith pointed out that a five-year levy would amount to $1.9 million. He said the board could instead look for ways to cut costs, such as mandatory furlough days for county employees.
Wender and Degenaer said five years would provide more stability for the county budget. "I think it's a band-aid," Wender said of a three-year plan.
"We need more than a band-aid."
In Michigan, 24 counties have extra-voted millages for central dispatch services, including Delta (0.5 mills) and Marquette (0.4862 mills).
Dickinson's 9-1-1 center provides dispatch services for six law enforcement agencies, nine fire departments, four emergency medical services and two public works/road commissions. Dickinson County is also the 9-1-1 backup for Iron County and the communications backup for Florence County.
On a home worth $80,000 (equalized value of $40,000), a levy of 0.4 mills amounts to $16 annually.
The November election date is Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The county's operating millage rate for 2012 - unchanged over the past nine years - is 6.1203 mills. On a home worth $80,000, a levy of 6.1203 mills amounts to $245 annually. Approval of a new levy of 0.4 mills, then, would be equivalent to a rate increase of 6.5 percent in the operating millage.
In other action Monday, the county board:
- Approved the request of the Dickinson County Library Board to levy 0.9 mills for 2013. This is the full amount authorized by voters, although since 2008 the county board has actually levied 0.85 mills. The vote was 3-2, with Smith and Stevens voting no. Smith said the library has a sizable fund balance and 0.85 mills is sufficient. On a home worth $80,000 the 0.05-mill increase in the library levy will be $2.
- Approved increasing birth and death certificate fees to $15 for the first copy and $10 for each additional copy. This increase - up from the current $10 for the first copy and $5 for additional copies - is the first in at least 15 years, according to Dickinson County Clerk-Register of Deeds Dolly Cook. It is effective immediately.
- Approved the request of EAA Chapter 439 to hold Ford Airport Day on Saturday, Sept. 15, subject to proof of insurance.
- Approved the request of the YMCA and Superior Aviation to hold a fund-raiser in the Superior Aviation hangar on Saturday, Oct. 27, subject to proof of insurance and other stipulations.
- Approved a resolution saluting Aaron Harper for 40 years in broadcast journalism.
- Stated formal opposition to House Bill 5804, which would establish a permanent state commission that would have the power to mandate minimum service levels for indigent defense. In a letter to state legislators, the county argued that no state money is contributed to indigent defense in Michigan, so the bill is an unfunded mandate that adds to a burden already shouldered by counties.
Jim Anderson's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.