Wednesday’s Clare County Board of Commissioners meeting was not dominated by any single topic; rather, it seemed like nearly every department in the County had some piece of business to come before the Board. The one persistent agenda item over the past several months, however, still made its way before the Board: 911 Central Dispatch and its relationship problems with MMR and United Rescue.
Commissioner Jim Gelios reported that he attended the Medical Control Authority Board meeting and presented the County’s policy to request both ambulance services to call in to Central Dispatch when accepting a run and when arriving on scene. Gelios said the Med Board concurred with the Commissioners’ policy.
Gelios also noted that, while the United Rescue Authority was recognized as being created by seven townships and the City of Harrison, the Med Board’s policy had not changed insomuch as the nearest ambulance should be sent to the scene of an emergency. The Med Board is forming a sub-committee to study the transfer of 911 calls to MMR’s Saginaw dispatch center, and the placement of ambulances in outlying areas where response times have been longer. Gelios said he will inform the 911 Advisory Board at their next meeting on April 24th.
That was not the end of the MMR/URS/Central Dispatch conversation, however. During the Public Comment portion of the agenda, Theresa Fox commented to the Board, “I’ve heard a lot of things about people being very discouraged with the 911 Dispatch. And, first and foremost, I would like to say that I believe our 911 Dispatch is doing a hell of a job. I think they do some great things there, and I think they’re getting a little bit of a bad rap on some of the stuff that’s going on between the two ambulance agencies.”
Fox then read a letter from 911 Central Dispatch Director Keith Yats in order to enter it into the official record. Mr. Yats was unable to attend Wednesday’s Board meeting.
In his letter, Yats said, in part, “Over the past two years I have tried to get MMR to understand the importance of continuous radio communications with our central dispatch. This allows Central Dispatch to update the responding ambulance. The ambulance can also benefit from this as central dispatch can assist them with directions to locations. I have had several meetings with Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Hansen in my office asking them to communicate with our dispatch on all levels.”
Yats’ letter continued, “I have questioned many items with both EMS agencies in our County and always will for the protection of our civilians in our County. Response times, closest units, amongst many other issues have been brought up to both agencies. Our Central Dispatch gains nothing by siding with either agency.”
“Our 9-1-1 system does work. Central Dispatch does not control “response times” from any agency. I have heard reference that 9-1-1 doesn’t work and I will tell you IT DOES. I will go on record to say that Clare County Central Dispatch should be able to DIRECT DISPATCH all agencies that operate within our County. Our dispatchers have the exact EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatch) training through Priority Dispatch a recognized authority of EMD. We already have the ability to communicate with MMR and URS through VHF and 800MHz radio systems,” Yats concluded.
Attached to his letter was a series of emails between Yats and MMR, copies of Clare County Review articles quoting what was said at the Dispatch Committee meeting, plus an email from Shiawassee County that states they have always directly dispatched all EMS and fire units.
As Teresa Fox began to speak to the Board after finishing Yats’ letter, Chairperson Don David interrupted to allow Brett Hansen from MMR to respond.
Hansen replied, “You keep being fed a bunch of misinformation, and I just want to clarify a few points rather than address every single point that you just heard. As far as accountability and transparency, not one single agency in this County has the same level that MMR does. We do and have been communicating to Central Dispatch via VHF radio that we are the unit responding to an assigned call and telling them where we’re coming from. We also tell them now when we’re on scene. In addition to both those things, they can see on their screen where we are on Fleet Eyes, even when we’re not on a call, they can see where we’re at, and Fleet Eyes does work – we’ve been over this a thousand times.”
Hansen continued, “The dispatch process that has been in place here for 12 years works. Our dispatch center is one of 114 that’s accredited across the country. It works. It’s the best there is. I have personally invited everybody, including the I.C.A.R.E. people, the United Rescue people, and all of you, at least two dozen times over the past 18 months to come see it for yourselves so you can have an informed, educated opinion before you start casting aspersions about it or making disparaging comments…To this day, I’ve not been taken up on that request and I’m a little curious why. You can sit there and say, ‘well, my opinion is it should be this way,’ when you have not done due diligence to understand the system that you are suggesting be done away with.”
There was no response to Mr. Hansen’s comments, and the meeting moved on to other topics.
Veterans Services Director Renee Haley came before the Board to update them on the progress of the new Freedom Park. “As you know, our sign went up on Monday. It couldn’t have been a worse weather day, but we survived, and it was very exciting. It was like the first official step for this park,” Haley told the Board.
Haley also reminded the Board of the Robert Friese Memorial 5K Walk/Run scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 28th. “This will be the one-year anniversary of his ultimate sacrifice for his country. It’s very fitting that we could do something like this in honor of him. All the proceeds will be going towards the park.” People wanting to participate can register as late as the day of the event, but participants must register by April 25th in order to be guaranteed a t-shirt.
Rob Stout from Trivalent was invited by IT coordinator Jim Neff to explain updates to the County’s IT system. Stout said that Neff will have the wireless system installed and running by the end of May, and that the system will have both secure and guest wireless service.
Stout also said that Trivalent will be hosting an E-Waste Day at Goodwill in Mt. Pleasant on May 4th and 5th. “Anything with a cord or a battery is acceptable,” Stout said. He noted that all computers will have their data wiped in Grand Rapids, but anyone with sensitive or personal information on their system might want to wipe their data before drop off. May 4th hours will be from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and the collection will continue on May 5th from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Stout said there was no charge or no limit as to the items citizens could drop off.
Equalization Director Kim Halis came before the Board to present the yearly Apportionment Report. The report details – by township, city and village – the changes in taxable, assessed and equalized value of personal and real property. Most of the townships, Halis noted, did not show a great deal of change in the taxable value of property, ranging from a loss of 8.04 percent in Freeman Township to a gain of 2.53 percent in Greenwood Township.
Halis explained that there were only three ways that taxable value can be increased: new construction, the uncapping of property transfers, and a change in the Consumer Price Index. Although the number may change slightly, Halis said that the overall decrease of taxable value in the County would mean a loss of revenue to the County’s operating costs of $8,781.
When asked if she thought the housing market had bottomed out yet, Halis replied, “I hope, but we probably haven’t hit bottom yet.” The Board voted unanimously to accept Halis’ report.
Rick Miller and Rick LaBoda were invited to Wednesday’s meeting to receive resolutions in appreciation for their years of service to the County. Both are retiring, Miller after 37 years in the Sheriff’s Department, and LaBoda after 17 years serving as the District Court Magistrate.
Senior Services/Community Development Director Lori Ware came before the Board to present a Quarterly Report on the services given to Clare County senior citizens. Ware also said that she had just begun a partnership with the high schools’ CTE program, where aspiring nurses will be taking blood pressures at meal sites, culinary students will be preparing meals once a month at meal sites, and construction students will help renovate and repair the two houses currently owned by the County’s Land Bank. The houses will be sold after repairs are completed.
Treasurer Jenny Beemer-Fritzinger presented her annual delinquency report. Beemer-Fritzinger said there were currently 113 properties in foreclosure, which was down 4.23 percent from last year. Beemer-Fritzinger reported that the tax settlement is done and that all entities – townships, RESD, cities, Senior Services, Mid Michigan Community College, etc. – will be receiving their settlement checks shortly.
She also said that the audit to close out last year’s books was nearly complete; the audit adjustments are completed and the auditor will be coming to the County for closeout day on May 2nd.
Gypsy Moth coordinator Kristina Sigafoose came before the Board requesting permission to enter into a contract with a company for spring spraying. Sigafoose recommended Al’s Aerial Spraying, even though his bid was slightly higher than another company, because of the quality of service received for the cost.
The Board agreed to contract with Al’s Aerial Spraying for a contract not to exceed $58,000 and authorized the chair to sign. Sigafoose said the colder weather has delayed the hatching and growth of the caterpillars, as it has delayed the emersion of many leaves, especially in the northern townships. Residents whose property is to be sprayed should receive a postcard, Sigafoose said.
In other business at Wednesday’s meeting, the Clare County BOC:
*approved the First Amendment to the Master Service Agreement between the Sheriff’s Department and Securus Technologies for the Secure Instant Mail Program, and authorize the chair to sign.
*approved a $40,000 budget adjustment in the 911 budget.
*approved the Homeland Security Grant Program Intergovernmental Agreement between Clare County and the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission.
*approved a $6,000 budget adjustment from the Jail’s Commissary fund to the General Fund, to allow them to purchase items for the Jail.
*approved the request from the Recovery Court to pay $15 a month for cell phone use, with money to come from the $6,000 already approved by the Board for the Recovery Court, by a vote of 5-1, with Commissioner Lipovsky dissenting and Commissioner Jerry Burger absent.
*approved budget adjustments to establish the ORV Grant budget and the OWI Forfeiture Fund.
*approved the Employment Agreement with Administrator Tracy Byard.
*adopted a resolution in support of guaranteed revenue replacement should the State repeal personal property taxes.
*adopted a resolution in opposition to the proposed cuts in revenue sharing.