State funding unlikely for 911 radio upgrades in Hillsdale County

HILLSDALE COUNTY — Hillsdale County is unlikely to see state assistance requested to upgrade its outdated VHF emergency telecommunications network to the state’s 800 MHz radio network.

After a mileage proposal failed at the polls on Aug. 2, the Hillsdale County Board of Commissioners began lobbying the respective offices of Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and Rep. Andy Fink (R-Adams Township) to secure state funding for upgrades. .

After:Hillsdale commissioners look to state for help in emergency network upgrade

Commissioner Brad Benzing, chairman of the commissioner’s public safety committee, said Tuesday morning that he spoke briefly with Fink on Monday.

“He wasn’t particularly optimistic that we would see funding,” Benzing said.

Estimates to upgrade the outdated VHF system with sporadic, intermittent service soared to just over $12 million when commissioners formed a subcommittee to explore the issue, but Benzing said on Tuesday it wasn’t. maybe not the only problem.

Hillsdale County Commissioner Brad Benzing

The county currently has two telecommunications towers that are nearing the end of service and need to be replaced.

A recent estimate to replace the failing Camden Tower cost just over $760,000 to replace.

Benzing said that even if the council removed the 911 surcharge cap on all phones in the county at $3 a month, revenue would only increase by $170,000 a year, meaning it would take about five years to replace. Camden Tower.

A 911 server also needs to be replaced, but if other major upgrades are needed, it could lead to further complications.

“We’re actually going to have a hard time maintaining the system we have now going forward,” said Benzing, a firefighter and emergency medical technician by trade.

“We just don’t have the revenue without an appropriation from the state or at some later time voters approving some form of dedicated funding.”

After:What is the next step ? : 800 MHz proposal rejected by voters

The Osseo tower also needs to be replaced and if the county ever switches to 800 MHz, an additional tower would have to be built.

“There just aren’t a lot of options, which is the same conclusion that our finance subcommittee came to and why they recommended going to voters so we can rubber stamp the project and the repay with mileage revenue,” Benzing said in a previous interview.

The Hillsdale County Board of Commissioners began considering upgrading the outdated countywide system earlier this year and opted to present a nearly $10 million bond proposal to voters on August 2, which failed.

“As a firefighter and AEMT, as well as chairman of public safety, I’m disappointed with the outcome,” Benzing said of the mileage failure. “We have been discussing the adoption of 800 MHz radios since at least 2008, which is at least 14 years.”

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The Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office has already used state and federal funds to make the transition and a number of fire departments and EMS agencies along the county’s eastern border with Lenawee County have already made the transition. the transition.

The commissioners discussed using some of the $8.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding they received earlier this year for the project, but the majority of that funding has now been earmarked for county building capital improvements.

An estimate for repairs to the historic courthouses roof and dome structure, including its steeple, was about $5 million, commissioner Doug Ingles reported in a previous interview.

– Corey Murray is a staff writer for The Hillsdale Daily News and can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @cmurrayHDN.

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