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Published: Thursday, 8/5/2004

Monroe County presses ahead despite defeat of 911 levy

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - The day after a levy calling for a telephone surcharge increase to support Monroe County's revamped emergency communications system was defeated by a 3-1 ratio, county Administrator Charles Londo was in a foul mood.

The county's townships and municipalities had largely declined to support the measure, and it showed at the polls. Not a single precinct voted for the measure.

Now the county must come up with $3.3 million to pay off a loan the county took out for the $9 million project, which is expected to be completed this fall.

"I guess you can attribute it to the fine support we got from the municipalities," a sarcastic Mr. Londo said.

The county received a $6 million federal grant last year to join Michigan's statewide 800-mhz radio system and upgrade its VHF paging system for volunteer firefighters.

But officials also wanted to build a $2.4 million 911 dispatch center and cover the cost of radio fees its municipalities must pay the state. Had the 911 initiative passed, the monthly phone surcharge would have gone from 80 cents to $2.40 a month and raised $2.3 million a year for five years.

The first victims of the defeat are the county's municipalities, which now must pony up $200 a year for every emergency radio they use. In the case of LaSalle Township, which operates 24 radios, that's $4,800 a year.

V. Lehr Roe, chairman of the county board of commissioners, pointed to the overwhelming victory for a senior citizens services measure as a sign of who voted against the measure.

"Seniors are pressed for money, and they didn't want any increased fees," Mr. Roe said.

Mr. Londo said the county would not place another initiative on the November ballot, but he did not rule out another levy sometime next year.

Meanwhile, he said, the project will move forward.

Contact George J. Tanber at

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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