By JIM ANDERSON
IRON MOUNTAIN - Telephone surcharge rates that help fund emergency 911 services in Dickinson County will rise 26 cents per month under a settlement approved Monday by the county board.
The county has been engaged in a five-year legal dispute with the Michigan Public Service Commission, which in 2008 lowered the county's surcharge from 70 cents per line to 42 cents, said Pete Schlitt, the county's emergency management coordinator.
The new compromise rate is 68 cents per line per month.
"This gets us (nearly) back to where we were five years ago," Schlitt said.
Schlitt said the county lost $415,000 to $475,000 in revenue as a result of the 2008 surcharge cut. In the settlement, the county has waived any retroactive collections.
The agreement was negotiated by the Grand Rapids law firm of Silver & Van Essen, which led a multi-county appeal against the commission's ruling.
"We spent $7,000 with this law firm but it looks as though it was a good move," said County Board Chairman Henry Wender.
The surcharge applies to all communication service devices, including cell phones. There are roughly 27,000 such units in the county, according to Schlitt, so the higher surcharge may generate about $84,000 in additional annual revenue.
The new rate will take effect no later than July 2014, and possibly earlier, Schlitt said.
The revenue boost comes on the heels of a new property tax levy that is funding a 911 equipment upgrade.
In February, with the county needing to replace its 911 console, voters approved a three-year millage levy of 0.4 mills for the dispatch system. That levy will generate about $375,000 in its first year.
The 911 upgrade, which may be completed by mid-October, is being financed through the sale of $500,000 in revenue bonds. Payment is guaranteed through the new millage.
In addition to telephone surcharges, the current E-911 budget requires about $300,000 annually from the county general fund.
In other action Monday, the county board:
- Adopted a budget calendar for fiscal year 2014. Budget requests from agencies and departments will be due Oct. 4; hearings are scheduled for Oct. 7; and adoption of the budget is set for Dec. 9.
- Approved the appointment of Margaret Minerick of Sagola to the Dickinson County Healthcare System Board of Trustees. Minerick will fill the remainder of the term of Susie Tracy, which expires Dec. 31, 2015.
- Heard Commissioner John Degenaer Jr. report that preliminary figures show Dickinson County Fair admissions were up slightly from a year ago, while revenues climbed significantly. "We did very well," Degenaer said.
- In a 4-1 vote (with Wender voting no) approved a resolution from Oceana County urging passage of the Healthy Michigan Plan, whereby the state will accept federal Medicaid expansion funds under the Affordable Care Act. (The Legislature gave final approval last week and Gov. Rick Snyder has said he will sign the bill when he returns from a trade mission to Asia.)
- Approved a resolution from Cheboygan County requesting full funding of state revenue sharing. According to the resolution, Gov. Snyder's recommended fiscal year 2014 budget includes a 23 percent cut from what counties were projected to receive in a deal struck in 2004-05.
- Accepted a Michigan State Housing Development Authority grant of $175,000 for single-family housing rehabilitations in Dickinson County. Housing specialist Larry Wall of Stephenson in Menominee County will serve as the administrator, under the direction of Dickinson Controller Nicole Frost.
- Authorized Frost to advertise, post and fill a vacancy for a part-time 4-H secretary position.
- Tabled until Sept. 23 the Dickinson County Library's request to levy 0.9 mills, the same as the current rate, and the full amount authorized by voters.
- Approved a request from Experimental Aviation Association Chapter 439 to hold its annual Ford Airport Day on Saturday at Ford Airport, subject to an indemnification agreement and proof of insurance.
Jim Anderson's email address is email@example.com.