Kingsford council endorses county's 9-1-1 proposal
By JIM ANDERSON
KINGSFORD - Dickinson County's 9-1-1 millage proposal was endorsed Tuesday by the Kingsford City Council in a 4-1 vote.
Sheriff Scott Celello attended Kingsford's meeting, finding more support for the millage than he did a night earlier at an Iron Mountain City Council session.
The Iron Mountain council, by a 4-2 vote Monday, declined to support a resolution from the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners that urges approval of the Feb. 26 referendum. Norway City Council, meanwhile, unanimously endorsed the county's request to support the millage.
Celello told the Kingsford council that the county's funding from a 9-1-1 surcharge on telephone lines was drastically cut by a Michigan Public Service Commission ruling in 2007. That monthly county surcharge, which Celello said was reduced from 71 cents to 42 cents per line, now provides less than half the money needed to operate the county's Enhanced 9-1-1 system. (Surcharges apply to both landlines and cellular phones.)
Much of the 9-1-1 operating funding now comes from the county's general fund - about $300,000 annually. Also, the dispatch equipment needs to be replaced at an estimated cost of $360,000.
The proposed 9-1-1 levy is 0.4 mills for three years and would generate an estimated $375,000 in the first year. The funds would be dedicated to both operating and equipping the county's 9-1-1 system, Celello said.
Kingsford council member Brian Smeester said he is reluctant to support any millage increase, but 9-1-1 is an essential service.
"The public has already gotten some of their money back," he said, noting the reduction in the monthly telephone surcharge.
Surcharges are much higher in some neighboring counties, Celello said, including $2.20 per line in Menominee County and $1.81 in Iron County.
Delta County has a surcharge rate of 44 cents per line, plus an annual 9-1-1 levy of 0.5 mills. Marquette County has a 9-1-1 levy of 0.4862 mills with no county surcharge on telephone lines. (There is also a separate technical surcharge that goes to the telecommunications company.)
Kingsford council member Cynthia Dixon-Miller voted against the endorsement, saying the county should respect the results of a Nov. 6 election that rejected the same millage request - 6,376 no to 5,800 yes.
"If they said no, they meant no," Miller said. "Taxpayers make a great effort to get to the polls."
Celello said the county decided to try the millage again after hearing from citizens who said they were confused by the proposal - placed at the end of a ballot that included six state referendums - or missed the intent of the county proposal entirely.
Mayor Dennis Baldinelli agreed that the November ballot was a bit overwhelming because of the number of statewide proposals.
On a home worth $80,000 (equalized value of $40,000), a tax of 0.4 mills amounts to $16 annually.
In other action Tuesday, the Kingsford council:
- Accepted a recommendation from the personnel committee to declare a vacancy for an entry level position in the Kingsford Public Safety Department. The council had previously delayed any hiring as a cost-saving measure, but an officer is now needed to prevent excessive overtime.
- Received a notice from Charter Communications of cable television rate increases effective in February. Basic service will increase by $2.39 per month to $25.99. The expanded basic service package will increase by $5 to $64.99. Digital service will increase by $4 to $65.99. Also, digital reception will be required for four more channels beginning in March - QVC channel 4, Charter Main Street channel 12, Me-TV channel 14, and NBC Sports Network channel 68.
- Agreed to seek proposals from engineering firms for a storm sewer separation study in the Kingsford Heights.
- Received, for review, four proposals for forest management services. The city is considering a timber harvest from 40 acres of city-owned property near Nocerini Road in Breitung Township. Decades ago, the property was acquired for potential water exploration, said City Manager Tony Edlebeck. The parcel now serves as a wellhead buffer. A decision on hiring a forester may be made in February.
- Agreed to set specifications and seek bids for a Department of Public Works pickup truck. This a budgeted replacement item.
- Authorized, as budgeted, the purchase of a new police vehicle, with the understanding that a Rural Development Agency grant will be pursued to cover the costs of detailing and equipping it.
Jim Anderson's email address is email@example.com.