The headlines scream "Future looks bleak if 911 millage fails" in the Mason County Press, before it leads off with: "Slower response times and the dispatch center’s eventual closing are on the horizon if next Tuesday’s 911 millage request fails."
The City of Ludington Daily News (COLDNews) also writes a one-sided article about how badly our 9-1-1 Center needs more money: "This is our last resort. Further cuts will put the public and responders at risk.”
Police Chief Mark Barnett, Sheriff Kim Cole, County Commissioner Candidate Wally Taranko, local 9-1-1 Director Ray Hasil and others tell various anecdotes about what may happen if this effort does not pass, most are akin to apocalyptic tales of terror.
I have looked through the hyperbole to check the figures and I can clearly say that you should not vote for this tax levy. Our 9-1-1 Center already has plenty of money tumbling in, in relation to similar sized counties throughout Michigan. Two relatively poor county's taxpayers, funding their 9-1-1 Center at the highest level among ten other similar sized counties in Michigan.
Mason and Oceana County have about 55,000 people living residing therein. Let's compare Mason/Oceana County's 9-1-1 operating expenses with counties that have similar population for their own 9-1-1 services using population data from the latest 2013 population figures. We will consider all such counties that have populations from 50,000 to 70,000 as of 2013 which includes:
Barry County: 59,097
Cass County: 51,910
Ionia County: 64,703
Isabella County: 70,436
Marquette County: 67,700
Montcalm County: 63,105
St. Joseph County: 60,964
Shiawassee County: 68,900
Tuscola County: 54,263
Mecosta/Osceola: 66,367 and
Of the ten other counties that have such populations, only two have less population than Mason/Oceana. One would figure that equivalent populations would have about equal volume of work, about equal expenses, about equal revenue coming in. But this is not the case, look at the last column in this link from the State 9-1-1 Committee located at the MSP website included thereafter in a link for their 2013 report.
These are all of the counties between 50,000 and 70,000 population, and the number one on expenses is the third smallest: Mason/Oceana County. Not surprisingly, Cass County, the smallest in population has the smallest expenditures, but those expenditures are less than half of Mason/Oceana. Which may surprise you since they only have about 6% less people than the two counties.
Marquette County is bigger in area and 25% bigger in population, but spends nearly $700,000 (43%)less than Mason/Oceana on 9-1-1 in this 2013 report. The 2012 report dealing with the same counties shows little difference in the figures for the most part, but check out the revenues: it has gone from $1,518,118 in 2011 to $1,681,682 in 2012 in our counties. That's more than a ten percent increase.
The figures for 2013 (which would be in the 2014 report) are not yet published, but there is obviously a problem here, even if Ray Hasil's worries about cell phone contracts and the number of vacant properties worsen and that money drops off about $50,000 each year until apparently it dries up to nothing, both of which are anecdotal and unproven.
Our 9-1-1 services are already getting more money, often a lot more money, than other similar sized counties, who aren't claiming indigence and hardship and the need to raise taxes from a populace that is well bled already, but are scared about all this talk about their dispatch center closing if this millage is not passed. If you believe these other counties are functioning well enough, which they seem to be doing, there is no reason to raise the people's tax rates so that ours can get even richer in comparison.
Whats Mason/Oceanas population May-September?
Officially, the same as September-May.
If we want to factor tourism into the equation, then most of the counties in the comparison above come from Southeast and Southwest Michigan regions, which have more or the same amount of visitors than we do (see map courtesy of DK Shiflett and Associates, 2011), so let's write that off as a red herring in the equation. Every dumb vehicle accident caused by a tourist here, will also happen in those counties.
Very interesting statistics again X, and quite a ruse as usual by these types on the locals. Didn't Hasil attribute much of the lost funds to people opting out of land lines, and also the amount of the population that leaves here for the winter, like 60%? The reasoning behind needing more tax money is just to tax more and more, while they cannot stop the hiatus of peoples' choices for less land lines, as well as hiatus' to a warmer climate. Yet we still witness the same county officials crying and making pleas that amount to extortion. It's obvious from the stats that our 911 service is blatantly over-budgeted, and needs to cut back. The ONLY way to accomplish that is to VOTE NO! But, I don't see any vote no signage in this area. Fooling the people again and again on these trite and over-priced services doesn't seem to ever get old. If the no vote wins now, expect it to reappear again soon on another fall election ballot for sure. These people have a one-track mind, and need to learn that whining and making hollow threats is an old trick that needs revision and extinction into the future. The only thing that keeps this mentality in place and reappearing is voting yes and being a fool imho!
These proposals rarely get any "Vote No" signage to counter them. Just remember back in 2012 when the mayor wanted to get a couple of extra terms, and the signage and paid advertising were exclusively "Vote Yes on the City Proposal". But 2/3 of the public rejected the idea, even though it didn't adversely affect their pocketbook directly. I believe that if "vote no" signs were available, many people would have been afraid to post them for fear of what the old regime would do to them.
Same thing here; only the most audacious people would put "vote no" signs against the 9-1-1 millage. The others would be fearful that public safety officers and emergency workers would take note and think twice when they find themselves in an emergency response to their homes. That's not unreasonable, and my own past experiences bear witness to it happening here.
Me and Ray Hasil are having an interesting discussion on Facebook at the Mason-Ocean 9-1-1 page. I posted this thread on that page, and Ray responded. I always appreciate stand-up public servants that aren't afraid to discuss the issues. He replied:
"I appreciate someone that takes time to understand the issues. But comparing our operation to other counties based solely on the State 911 Committee annual reports doesn't begin to factor all of the areas 911 centers can be different.
One of the major challenges for our area is seasonal populations, which aren't addressed in the state 911 reports. In the list of counties you compare our center to, Oceana and Mason Counties rank #1 and #3 in terms of vacant/seasonal homeowners (2008-2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, www.uscensus.gov). Our seasonal populations cause call volumes to double and triple this time of year.
Also missing from your comparison is bond repayments. Mason-Oceana pays approximately $300,000 to Mason and Oceana Counties in bond repayments every year for initial construction of the center and an 800 MHz radio tower in Ludington. If we are going to be compared to other counties for the cost of our operation this should be factored somehow since it's not being spent on personnel or daily operations. That is the reason for the 6 year request. It gets us to the end of all bond payments to both counties.
These are two of the more significant considerations but only touch on the number of factors to compare.
Regards, Ray Hasil Director Mason-Oceana 911"
XLFD: "Ray, having worked for the Census Bureau in administrative capacities in the 2000 and 2010 Decennial Censi, I can suggest a strong correlation between the amount of vacant/seasonal properties and the increase of people we find in this neighborhood for the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Much of what we call 'snowbirds' are counted among our county's population, but often only hang around for half the year, thereby skewing the population figures the other way during the off-season.
Let's consider a comparison with Marquette County. They have plenty of tourists come during the summer, and they have NMU which has about 10,000 students (almost all non-residents) in the off-season, some whose head count and phone service is from Mason and Oceana County. Marquette County even appears to have about $200,000 in bond repayments (like your $300,000) which aren't part of their total.
Yet they spend a lot less, and I still can't find any reputable news article or study that says their 9-1-1 program is in dire straits and probably going to shut down if they don't beg their citizens for more taxes. Why are they able to run their 9-1-1 a lot more efficient than you? Thanks for any explanation.
Tom Rotta, taxpayer, Mason County.
Ray: "I can't comment on Marquette's operation Tom, except to say that some of the answers may be in the same state 911 report you referenced in your first post. Incidents dispatched here are 50,000 vs 35,000 for Marquette. This doesn't definitively explain the costs or revenues of either center. However, they are significant indicators worth noting when forming a conclusion. Accusations that one is a lot more efficient than another without a comprehensive comparison is opinion. Based on your posts it feels like your mind is made, and that's ok. Your conclusions fail to consider a lot of variables (including data that goes beyond the state 911 report) that play into efficiency."
XLFD: " I disagree that it is opinion when you look at two service providers and compare the data. If you see Service A provide quality service to 67,000 people for $1,000,000, and see service B provide the same quality service to 54,000 people for $1,600,000, which service provider would you choose? Why does it cost $16 a person in Marquette County, and $31 a person in Mason/Oceana Counties for the same service?
It's a fair question for skeptics of your efficiency, and providing the same service for nearly double the cost would likely get you fired or never hired if you were in the private sector. And even though more incidents are dispatched here, the call volume for PSAP/911 service in Marquette is about 87,000 while it is only about 54,000 here per year. Maybe you should get on the phone with Marquette before you shut your doors.
What an excellent and cogent reply to Ray X, or should I address this thread as X-RAY? Ex-rays are supposed to show and interpret reality in it's very real essence. Blueprints for life in this case, if you will. I don't see that with Ray! Skewed reporting and emotion responses is all I see for flimsy excuses. And of course reasoned responses for increasing more taxes, and waste.
Marquette county dispatch is ran out of the State Police regional dispatching center, it is also subsidized by the State of Michigan.
You are not taking into account the reduced cost due to shared facilities. Or numerous other factors regarding how the State Police and that county work together.
Looking at the Marquette County 911 Website, you are correct in stating that the MSP shares a facility with them. That sounds rather efficient, doesn't it? Maybe the Hart Post of the MSP and M/O 911 should have worked a similar arrangement out when they started up 18 years later. Working together and saving expenses for both-- what a concept.
According to the link above, Mason/Oceana 911 gets more money from the State , unless I'm reading it wrong. You imply that Mason/Oceana is not subsidized by the State.
By the way, I looked for a similar link for M/O 911 that the Marquette 911 maintains and only found this http://www.mason-oceana911.org/news.html. The Marquette website has meeting minutes, agendas and a host of other services links. Our M/O 911 page has what it has, which includes their plea: " In response to declining revenues since 2009 911 has a new millage request on the August 5, 2014 ballot..."
Perhaps you could enlighten me on what special subsidization happened in 2009 at M/O 911 to spike their income so they can now claim they have had declining revenue. From 2011 to 2012 it looks to me as if it jumped around 10%. Thanks in advance, Thor.
The Mason Oceana county dispatch website has all of the meeting minutes back to January of 2009 and as recently as April of 2014 posted for the wold to see on it's website. There does appear to be some financial statements in at least a few of the meeting minutes.
When I did a Google Search for "Mason Oceana County Central Dispatch", the only thing that came up on my computer for the first few pages was the above link. Subsequent searches finally found it when I entered "Mason Oceana 911", the link is: http://www.mason-oceana911.org/, and it does have much of the same amenities as the Marquette site.
Thor, if you please, could you check out and see whether you can find any sort of budget for the years from 2009 on. I cannot find anything in the meeting minutes to give me any idea of what their revenues and expenditures are. Thanks in advance.
Give this a try 6th document in the list State of Michigan web site
X... do you think that maybe you should do more research before you make posts?? So far you have been unaware of how Marquette dispatch functions and tried to compare apples to oranges. You also apparently didn't look into the budget reviews for Mason Oceana county dispatch. You have apparently been unable to execute a simple google searches to find the full web site for the dispatch center, much less any other information regarding this.
Before you potentially get people killed by spreading miss information about this proposal I urge you to gather ALOT more information about it first, maybe some FOIA requests to the M/O dispatch requesting the budget from last year and projected years???? You may be completely correct in stating they don't need additional money to continue to operate at the same level of service to the people of Mason and Ocean counties. I however don't see your normally thorough amount of research in the forming of your opinion. Since the ramifications of you being wrong are so great here. in that you would be potentially putting citizens, cops, fire fighters, and ems personnel at greater risks if this millage fails.
Please do more research before you go off half cocked...