No emergency call here

April 12, 2010
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Its latest agreement is likely the most noteworthy achievement the Kent County Dispatch Authority has attained since it was established nearly four years ago.

The KCDA recently selected the Grand Rapids Police Department and the Kent County Sheriff’s office as its two “primary service answering points” for emergency police, fire and medical 911 calls, a consolidation effort that will reduce the number of countywide call-taking centers from five to two.

Commissioners at both the city and the county approved separate agreements with the KCDA. The contracts will also mean new equipment and a few more jobs at both, with purchase costs and payrolls being paid by the 911 excise tax on monthly phone bills. The tax is 45 cents a month for every line in service, amounting to roughly $3 million per year that goes to the KCDA. The new consolidated service will begin Jan. 1 and won’t cost the city or the county a dime.

According to the agreements, city police will receive 57 percent of the emergency calls made. City Manager Greg Sundstrom said the KCDA will give the city $1.425 million for first-year operations, $94,000 to administer the program, and the necessary equipment the city needs to operate the call-taking center at no cost to the city. “This really will be an improvement in services for our residents,” said Sundstrom, who has represented the city on the dispatch board since 2004.

The county’s Sheriff’s department will receive 43 percent of the emergency calls. County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio said the KCDA will reimburse the county $967,500 for operations in the first year, with $577,750 of that going to training and administration during the first six months from July 1 to Dec. 31. Kent will add 13 staffing positions to the Sheriff’s primary service answering point.

The KCDA has purchased computer-aided dispatch systems for both call-taking centers and a 911 phone system with a call-back-up capability that can handle a higher volume of calls. The authority expanded the county’s communications center and developed the three-party agreement between the city, county and itself that designates the revenue from the phone tax to cover operations.

“The county has been a wonderful partner to work with,” said Mayor George Heartwell.

The city is currently wrapping up an agreement with the city of Wyoming on the actual dispatching of the calls it will receive at its primary service answering point. Sundstrom said that contract would come to city commissioners soon. H said the city has hired a computer-aided dispatch administrator.

Both the city and the county will start developing their new emergency call-taking centers July 1.

The cities of Grand Rapids, Grandville, Walker and Wyoming and Kent County formed the KCDA in September 2006.

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