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Local 911 control in jeopardy


Director wary of state takeover



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September 10, 2008
LAPEER COUNTY — Emergency 911 Director Vic Martin is concerned that the state could gain control of setting fees for the county's E-911 telephone service.

Martin notes that the Lapeer County Commission currently sets county residents' fees for the emergency telephone service. Those surcharge fees are set at $1.55 per month.

That could change, says Martin, if the state, with support from large telephone companies like AT&T and Verizon, successfully wrangles such oversight away from the county and other local jurisdictions across Michigan.

Martin believes that if the Michigan legislature gets its way, the state will establish new and higher fees for users. He also fears that putting the service in the hands of the state will result in increased bureaucracy.

"I think it's a major error," says Martin. "We would lose control of how our our funds are spent. And we don't know how much they are going to take."

Martin predicts phone users will end up paying more through the implementation of a state administration fee.

"The state is going to make sure it get its cut," he warns. "The telephone companies benefit because they would only have to cut one check. What's happening is that we're fighting the lobbyists on this."

Martin estimates that about 78 percent of the state's population would notice an increase in fees.

"And who knows if our county would get its fair share of any statewide fee back from Lansing," says Martin.

In an effort to stem the tide, Martin is asking county residents to contact their elected officials, urging them to extend the February 2009 sunset on current 911 legislation, which provides for local control.

"I encourage our residents to contact Sen. Jud Gilbert and Rep. John Stahl to ask for their support," he says. "Urge them to keep our county 911 operations and funding where it belongs — in the hands of our locally-elected county board.

"If the legislature doesn't extend the sunset, we're done," says Martin. "Under the law, the funding will be gone."

Martin says the Lapeer County Commission shares his position on the matter, as do the Michigan Association of Counties and the State 911 Committee.

Martin says there are an estimated 60,000 cell phones and 40,000 land lines in Lapeer County. In recent years, the number of land line users has dwindled by an average of 2,000 per year.

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