Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

April 5, 2014

Local 911 groups strike out on state grant

TRAVERSE CITY — Local 911 agencies tried and failed to secure a state grant to increase their inter-connectivity.

Michigan Department of Treasury officials recently rejected a regional grant application for just shy of $1 million from 911 centers in Grand Traverse, Antrim, Benzie, Leelanau and Kalkaska counties, and the 911 authority that serves Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties.

911 officials hoped to spend money from the state's Competitive Grant Assistance Program on infrastructure that would improve their ability to share information and work together.

"We've been working together with several counties in northwest Michigan on a variety of concepts, trying to see how we can work better and smarter," Grand Traverse County 911 Director Jamel Anderson said. "We were hoping this might give us a kick-off for some of the projects we were looking at."

The state's competitive Grant Assistance Program provides funding for inter-agency projects intended to make government more efficient, according to the treasury department's web site.

Jason Torrey, deputy director for Grand Traverse 911, said local agencies want to build-out fiber networks at their call centers, improve connectivity of their computer-aided dispatch services and upgrade phones to Internet-based systems.

Torrey said many area 911 centers rely on analog-based phone systems or outdated Internet phone systems. Upgrading those devices would allow one agency to assist another agency in the event of an overflow of calls.

"For instance, if Leelanau has two dispatchers working and I have four, we could set it up so we’d automatically take some of their overflow calls, and that can only be done with IP technology," Torrey said.

But funding for such initiatives will not come from the $13 million in Competitive Grant Assistance money state officials doled out April 1. The majority of that total went to communities in southeast Michigan, according to a press release from the Department of Treasury.

Torrey said Competitive Grant Assistance money is usually available twice a year. He expects local 911 officials to apply for the second round of funding in June.

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