May 27 12:25 PM

Communications upgrade on St. Clair County ballot

Radio tower would allow Capac, Yale and Memphis to tap county's system

July 25, 2007
ST. CLAIR COUNTY — For the price of a pizza, residents, especially in western St. Clair County, can be assured that their community will have the necessary tools in case of an emergency, officials say.

For places like Capac, Memphis and Yale, that one missing tool is a communications tower that would complete the county's transition to an 800 megahertz radio system.

On August 7, the county will ask voters to approve a .5 millage which would replace St. Clair County's current surcharge on landline telephones and local community funding.

"This will permanently finance dispatch operations and complete building the system," Administrator Shaun Groden said.

An informational meeting about the millage was held at the Mussey Twp. Fire Hall on July 17.

Groden said it's "unconscionable" that police, fire and EMS crews in places like Capac can't communicate via radio because they can't tap into the new system that the rest of the county enjoys. Yet, the county already subsidizes central dispatch more than $400,000 a year and a loss of more than $700,000 in revenue sharing looms ahead.

"We're talking about putting people's lives in jeopardy," Groden said.

The lack of inter-communication is compounded by various 'dead' areas in western St. Clair County where officers lose all radio signals.

Building a new tower is essential, since existing structures aren't in the right place, are too short and not scaled to contain the new equipment.

According to engineers, the best location for a new tower would be at Kelly and Foley roads in Mussey Twp. Depending on the type of tower, the county would need to purchase one to five acres.

Currently, the county receives 25 cents per cell phone and 80 cents per landline via surcharges on a quarterly basis, but the number of landlines in St.Clair County is steadily dropping, Groden added.

There always was the option of instituting a device-wide surcharge at $2.10 per month but the numbers showed the average family with a handful of cell phones would pay more than with the millage.

At .5 mills, a home with a $100,000 appraised value would pay $15.40 for the millage, a $150,000 home would pay $27.90. Subtract the $9.60 landline surcharge residents see now and the total cost is even more reasonable, Groden said.

"We can do this for the price of a pizza," he said.

If the millage is not approved, the final tower will not be built, the county will need to make cuts in other departments to fund central dispatch and layoffs would be imminent, Groden said.

To learn more about how the radio system works, visit the Concerned Citizens for Public Safety Communications' Web site at

Residents can cast their ballots next Tuesday, August 7 from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Assistant Editor
Castle Creek
Milnes Ford
05 - 27 - 19
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