Sheriff’s department upgrading dispatch equipment

Attempting to enter dispatch collaboration with surrounding counties


MIO — The Oscoda County Sheriff’s Department is upgrading its dispatch equipment and attempting to enter into an agreement with nearby counties that will provide backup should the dispatch service falter.

Sheriff Kevin Grace said the new equipment is a significant jump in technology from the previous tools. The department will now be using West Corporation’s VIPER system, upgrading from the Frontier system it currently uses. Grace said Frontier simply wasn’t providing the service the department needed.

“We needed to do something like this,” Grace said at the July 10 county workshop meeting. “Frontier is not servicing their equipment. I don’t want to say we’re working on borrowed time, but we are.”

According to West’s website, the VIPER system is the dispatch industry’s longest-operating, most dependable and complete end-to-end call handling system. The company has deployed more than 1,800 VIPER systems across five continents. Grace said one of the most important upgrades the new service provides is pinpoint mapping of each call or text dispatch recieves, giving officers a precise location to send emergency services to.

The new system will cost the county roughly $140,000. Although that is a hefty sum, Grace said the money will come directly from a special fund set aside for dispatch services. He said the county has been anticipating this upgrade for a while, and has saved up enough money to ensure it will not cost residents anything extra on their taxes.

Grace said the new equipment was installed last week. This week the department will be training on how to use it. He said it will officially switch over to the new service within two to three weeks following training and testing.

If the new system were to fail at some point, the sheriff’s department would have a backup through the proposed inter-county agreement it is attempting to enter into, to become part of the North Central Michigan Collaboration Group. The group would include the dispatch services of Alpena, Crawford, Ogemaw, Oscoda and Roscommon counties. Grace said the agreement would ensure the counties involved assist each other in various ways.

All of the counties involved would agree to have the same baseline dispatch system. This would allow them to save money by going in together on a maintenance contract that includes each county. Grace said the agreement would also help serve as a safety net in more than one way.

“If my system went down today, Alpena or Roscommon would be taking our data and receiving our calls,” Grace said.

He went on to mention the counties would help each other financially when it comes time to upgrade the dispatch services, which would save them money as well. He said roughly every 8 years Oscoda will have to put forward roughly $50,000 to help refresh the dispatch equipment for all of the counties involved in the agreement.

Grace said while the agreement comes with multiple benefits, it does have a few drawbacks.

“I don’t necessarily agree with the regional dispatch,” Grace said. “You take away some of the homestyle aspect. They won’t know the roads as well. But this (is a starting point) so that we can at least get it to where we want.”

Grace brought the agreement to the county board of commissioners at its July 10 meeting. He asked commissioners to sign it by the end of the month.

“I would like to see something done about this by the next board meeting,” Grace said. “Roscommon will be getting theirs signed at the beginning of August, and Ogemaw somewhere around there as well.”

Grace said he provided the commissioners with copies of the agreement, as well as a preview of the financial impact it would have on the county in the future. Grace said the special fund set aside for dispatch should be able to fully fund the financial obligations of the agreement. He said he isn’t positive on how the board will vote on the agreement.

“I am hopeful, that’s about what I’d say,” Grace said. “It seems to be good for everyone, and I’m hoping they see that also.”

If the board follows Grace’s recommended timeline, it will make a decision on whether or not to participate in the agreement at its July 24 meeting.


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