Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 10, 2013

GT residents could start paying more for 911 services

Traverse City Record-Eagle

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TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse residents soon may be paying more for 911 services.

Grand Traverse County is attempting to end a longstanding disagreement with the Michigan Public Service Commission over 911 surcharges that appear on county residents' monthly phone bills.

The surcharge dispute dates to 2008, when the county commission and the Michigan Emergency Telephone Services Committee originally approved a monthly 911 fee of 80 cents. The MPSC later forced the county to reduce the fee to 66 cents, the amount customers currently pay to the county each month. Grand Traverse joined 23 other counties and sued the MPSC over the forced reductions.

The suit eventually went to the Michigan Court of Appeals, and last month the court ruled each county should negotiate a settlement with the MPSC, or request a contested hearing to resolve the disputes.

Jamel Anderson, director of Grand Traverse Central Dispatch, said the county wants to negotiate a 94-cent monthly surcharge for the next five years, starting in July. That translates to an additional 28 cents on customers' phone bills each month.

"I wish it could be resolved a different way, but this falls on the MPSC," Anderson said. "We are just correcting what should have been done in 2008."

The 94-cent fee includes a return to the original 80-cent fee, plus an additional 14 cents to make up for revenue lost between 2008 and 2012.

An 80-cent surcharge will create approximately $876,000 in revenue for 911 services. The annual revenue total increases to slightly more than $1 million under the 94-cent surcharge.

Central Dispatch has an annual budget of roughly $1.7 million.

Anderson said additional surcharge revenue will help Central Dispatch purchase needed equipment, like new dispatch consoles and an Internet provider-based phone system.

Grand Traverse residents also pay a monthly 24-cent 911 surcharge levied by telephone providers. That brings the current total monthly cost of 911 fees up to 90 cents.

911 surcharges vary greatly from county-to-county, according to the MPSC. Residents in Alcona County pay $3.80 per month, while residents of Kalamazoo County pay only 22 cents.