Election FAQ

How Does 911 Affect Me?
Frequently Asked Questions
Related to the Millage Request for Lapeer County 911 Central Dispatch Radio Equipment

Why does the system need to be replaced?
There are two main reasons why the 911 radio equipment needs replacement. First the existing equipment is more than 13 years old. The computers and the equipment used at 911 are no longer manufactured. The manufacturer has declared that the radios by Lapeer County police/fire/EMS agencies are “obsolete”. Because the entire system is outdated, replacement parts are no longer available. In addition, the manufacturer of the radios will stop doing any maintenance work on all portable radios effective July 1, 2010 and all mobile radios effective October 1, 2010. Any repairs needed after these dates will be based solely on parts availability, and at a time/materials rate instead of being covered as part of a maintenance agreement.
The second is that the government is requiring the “shrinking” of frequency bandwidth; commonly referred to as narrowbanding. This will require the replacement of the paging system as the existing system was built before this “narrowbanding” process was developed and the equipment is not able to be modified.

What is included in the project?
The largest portion of the millage will go to the construction of the four additional communication towers that are needed to ensure digital radio coverage across the county. The remaining portion of the millage will replace the computers needed for dispatching and the radios utilized by police, fire, and EMS agencies. None of the millage money can be used for hiring people or for increasing salaries.

How much will it cost?
The millage request is for 16.143 million dollars. To pay for this, 0.75 mills is needed on the taxable property value (also known as the SEV or State Equalized Value – not the assessed value or what you might think your property is worth) for a period of up to ten (10) years.

How much will it cost me?
The proposed millage request is for 0.75 mills over a ten year period. The amount a property owner would pay annually is based in the taxable value (also known as the SEV or State Equalized Value), not the assessed value or what you might think your property is worth. The following example illustrates what the cost would be for an average homeowner.
TAXABLE VALUE-SEV RATE (Mills)
ASSESSED VALUATION ANNUAL
PAYMENT

$ 150,000 $ 75,000 0.75 $ 56.25

$ 125,000 $ 62,500 0.75 $ 46.88

$ 100,000 $ 50,000 0.75 $ 37.50

$ 75,000 $ 37,500 0.75 $ 28.13

$ 50,000 $ 25,000 0.75 $ 18.75

Why does it cost so much?
The lion’s share of this project will pay for the four additional communications towers needed to provide adequate digital coverage for emergency responders across the county. Approximately 11 million dollars is needed for these towers and for necessary equipment at three other tower sites. The remaining funds will pay for new computer, paging and radio equipment (while paging equipment for the dispatchers will be included, no new pagers will be purchased as part of this project).

Will my tax dollars go to fund Downtown Development Authorities (DDA’s)?
NO! While there were three village DDA’s that had intended to capture millage proceeds in the last election, with this ballot proposal, all of the DDA’s in Lapeer County have agreed to waive any capture on 911 millage funds.

Does it include money for wages & benefits?
NO! By law, all money collected through this millage has to be used for equipment only.

How long will it last?
The Michigan Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS) is on record saying that the digital “backbone” will be maintained for at least 20 years. The average lifespan of a radio manufactured today is estimated at 10-14 years.

Are you going to be back asking for more money in another 10-12 years, and if so, why?
The honest answer is “probably”. There is no reason to think that anything significant would be needed to be done to the communications towers, but it is likely that there will be a need for new computer and radio equipment in the next 10-15 years. Keep in mind that the average lifespan of a radio is 10-14 years and computers typically need to be replaced in half that time.

Why is the request for 10 years?
The project will be funded by selling bonds and there is a cost for this. Spreading the cost to pay for the bonds over ten years allows us to keep the millage rate at 0.75 mills. The only way to shorten the timeframe would be to increase the amount of the mills paid annually, which would drive up the amount paid by the taxpayers each year.

Why hasn’t Central applied for grants to pay for this?
The staff at Central Dispatch and the Authority Board that governs the operation of the center have worked tirelessly searching for grant funding to help offset the cost of the new system. There have been some grants available for a limited number of radios, but these grants were designed to help equip individual department needs, and none are capable of providing the funding needed for the entire project. Both of our U.S. Senators, our U.S. Representative, our State Senator, and our State Representative have also been assisting us with trying to find funding for the project, but to date, they have not been successful either.

Why doesn’t the County enact a Special Assessment to pay for the system?
It is reasonable to say that a countywide special assessment might likely be the fairest or most equitable way to spread the cost of the new system, unfortunately it can’t be done. While the cities, townships, and villages could enact a special assessment for their respective municipalities, legally the County can’t enact a countywide special assessment. Perhaps more importantly, what would happen if it failed to pass or was successfully blocked by the voters in one or more of the municipalities?

How would a failure at Central Dispatch affect me?
There is no backup system- PERIOD! Many people have stated that the state or county won’t let the system go down. The system has already failed a number of times and there was no help then, nor will there be when it goes down again. Everyone needs to remember that the County of Lapeer only owns a small part of the overall system; it is owned by all the municipalities in Lapeer County.
In the event that the millage fails, local police, fire, and EMS agencies will have to come up with methods for their citizens to contact them in an emergency. While the 911 telephone lines would still be functional, if there is a failure of certain components of the paging and/or radio systems, there will likely be no way for the dispatchers to contact the appropriate responders in a timely manner.
Depending on the type of failure involved, it is quite possible that municipalities would have to purchase their own paging and/or radio system(s). If each municipality had to provide its own paging and radio system, the cost would be astronomical in comparison to the amount of the requested millage, which will spread the costs across the entire county.
There is no question that the 911 radio and paging systems will eventually fail and not be able to be fixed. If things get to this point, the costs of individual homeowner’s insurance will likely rise more than one would be paying for the millage.

Earlier this spring, the paging system failed without anyone knowing it as there is no way to put an alarm on that system to advise the dispatching staff that the power supply had failed. Because of this failure, there was a call for a medical emergency in Hadley Township that went unanswered by the fire department. If the call had been life threatening, the individual would most likely not have survived. What would have happened if someone’s house had been on fire???

If part of the system fails, can’t you use the backup? There honestly is no backup system. Some have said that the county courthouse is the backup. The only backup at the courthouse is a backup telephone system which would be used in the event the 911 telephone lines went down. While there is a temporary backup system for the paging system, it can’t reach the entire county. THERE IS NO BACKUP FOR THE RADIO SYSTEM.

Central Dispatch has tried to purchase as many “spare” parts as possible, but due to the age of the system, replacement parts are no longer available from the manufacturer or from aftermarket companies. Finding parts from users who used to employ the same type of system has proved to be futile in most cases due to different versions of software being incompatible.

Why didn’t Central “bank” any money over the years to help pay for this? Will they “bank” any money if this millage is approved?
The original equipment millage paid for the 911 building and original equipment. The intent of the millage was to pay for these items only. As it was never intended to be a savings account, no “extra” money was collected and in fact, the original millage was retired a year early. The money that was left over has been used (and only can be used) for replacing minor equipment items. The upcoming millage is also designed to collect only enough to pay for the project.
Aren’t all police and fire departments manned full time? No. Of the eight police departments in the county, the Sheriff’s Department, Almont, City of Lapeer, Imlay City and Metamora operate 24/7 with full time employees. The other departments have a full time chief and utilize a combination of full and/or part time officers. Two departments do not provide 24 hour service.

The townships, cities and villages in the county receive fire protection (and in some areas medical first responder) services from predominately volunteer/paid-on-call firefighters. There are only four full time firefighters in the entire county; one in Metamora Township and three in the City of Lapeer.

Why aren’t we using cell towers instead of adding new towers?
To maximize digital coverage countywide, the communications towers have to be located in specific areas. In addition, there is a 200’ minimum height requirement for these towers; something few if any cell towers can meet.

Why do we need to add four towers?
An extensive study was conducted to evaluate digital coverage across the county using the existing towers. The results of the study showed that to ensure digital radio coverage countywide, a total of four new towers placed in strategic locations would be needed.

If the millage is approved, how long will it take to get the new system online?
The consultant and the equipment manufacturers agree that it will likely take a minimum of 18 months to procure/install the equipment and install the towers. This timeframe will not start until bids have been received and approved, and a contract is signed. This means that the more realistic timeframe will likely be 2 years after the millage is approved.

Why can’t we just increase the telephone surcharge to cover the cost of the new system?
The State regulates the maximum amount that can be captured through a telephone surcharge. That amount is currently $3.00 per line/per month, and the money collected ($1.55 per line/per month in Lapeer County) is specifically designated for the operational costs of the dispatch center (wages, utilities, etc), and cannot be used for anything else without voter approval. Even if the public wanted to pay for the new system through a surcharge; at $3.00 per line/per month, it would be impossible to raise the money needed to pay for the new system.

Is the State system reliable?
YES! There have been no failures with the system and it is constantly being maintained by dedicated technicians statewide.

What are the alternatives to spending $16 million on the proposed system?
Realistically, there are none. We could build a digital system similar to the analog system we currently have (Lapeer County only), but to do so would still require the additional four towers and the cost of such a system far exceeds the $16 million being proposed. In addition, it would not allow communication between police/fire/EMS personnel and our central dispatch when units are out of our county. It would also preclude inter-operable communication with our neighboring counties; something that would be critical in the event of a natural disaster, large scale hazardous material incident, or law enforcement activities such as serving warrants or vehicle pursuits.

The system could be built for less money if the additional towers were eliminated and only the MPSCS tower in Deerfield Township was utilized. However, doing so would limit the radio coverage to predominately mobile radios, and only those operating in areas near the tower site would be able to communicate. The vast majority of Lapeer County would have little or no portable radio coverage; something every police/fire/EMS agency uses on virtually every call.

Why is it important that me and everyone I know vote?
It is critical that every registered voter get out and vote!!! We’ve all heard that “every vote counts” and it does. This measure failed in the last election by 312 votes. Many people have stated that they would have voted for the proposal, but ASSUMED that it would pass anyway so they didn’t take the time to vote. We can’t let this happen again!

Should I vote absentee if I won’t be in town or won’t be able to get to the polls?
ABSOLUTELY!!! See the preceding question/answer.

To provide and ensure twenty-four hour exemplary Public Safety Communications service for the citizens, communities, and public safety responders of Lapeer County.