Voters to decide on dispatch surcharge increase

Must pass in both Mecosta, Osceola counties

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — In less than a month, voters in Mecosta and Osceola counties will decide on a proposed monthly surcharge increase for the Meceola Consolidated Central Dispatch Authority.

The proposal, which will appear on the ballot during the Aug. 4 election, requests a monthly surcharge of up to but not exceeding $3 — in the monthly billings of landline, wireless and VOIP service suppliers — to be used exclusively to fund 911 emergency and dispatch services in Mecosta and Osceola counties.

If both counties approve the proposal, the surcharge would go into effect beginning July 1, 2021, through December 2026.

“The surcharge has to pass in both counties for it to go into effect,” said Megan Erickson, director of Meceola Central Dispatch.

Erickson said the surcharge is necessary because the dispatch center is completely surcharge funded. She added dispatch works with multiple agencies throughout Mecosta and Osceola counties as well as the Michigan State Police, Department of Natural Resources and other first responder agencies.

“We are the link between the public and providing emergency services,” she said. “It’s a tool we need.”

Erickson explained the surcharge previously was $2.25 per month on each telephone device. The $0.75 increase for residents would increase the total cost per year from $27 to $36.

She added the price increase is being proposed to allow dispatch to keep up with technology upgrades in recent years, including connection to the Michigan Public Safety Communications System, a fully integrated Computer Aided Dispatch and more.

“The surcharge funding increase would assist Meceola Central Dispatch 911 in maintaining the technology enhancements, cover daily operating costs of the center and begin building our capital expenditure funds for future technology and infrastructure needs to provide the most efficient emergency services to the citizens of Mecosta and Osceola counties,” Erickson said.

She added the surcharge is not part of county property tax dollars, but is collected by telephone providers and can only be used for 911 services.

“Not everyone will use 911 in their lives,” Erickson said. “But it’s a pretty cheap investment for something vital.”