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Hillsdale County emergency dispatch needs upgrades. They're not cheap.

Posted at 6:23 PM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 18:23:11-05

HILLSDALE, Mich. — Hillsdale County’s emergency dispatch is in need of upgrades, but officials say the fixes won’t be cheap.

The price tag? Potentially $12 million.

Emergency Management Director Doug Sanford said the current equipment works but it’s very old.

“A lot of the equipment is fairly new but the technology is old,” he said. “It really hasn’t changed much in 50 years. That’s how far back it goes.”

This makes it hard to communicate with agencies in neighboring counties.

“Everybody is moving to digital,” he said. “That includes all of our neighboring counties and neighboring states of Ohio and Indiana. We need to be able to communicate with them.”

Because, in emergency situations, seconds count.

“It’s hard to put a number on how many seconds it takes, how long it takes,” he said. “It depends on the communication. How detailed it is. Are they just asking for a police car to meet them someplace? Or are they exchanging license numbers? What’s the detail? But, the bottom line is it just takes longer and any delay in our business is not good.”

Hillsdale County Central Dispatch

What is necessary to get rid of the delays? Going from 150 megahertz to 800 megahertz.

Sanford said the county is looking at going to the Michigan Public Safety Telecommunication System.

“Most of the state of Michigan has already gone to it,” he said. “Jackson County north of us and Lenawee County east of us went in the last year to that system. Branch County to the west of us is kind of hybrid system. Nonetheless, everybody has moved to that type of system and our VHF equipment just can’t talk to their radios anymore.”

Hillsdale County Central Dispatch

If it isn’t upgraded soon, it will cost even more later.

“That’s the point,” Sanford said. “We need to make sure we understand that it’s important to do it. We’re going to have to do it eventually. It’s a question of do you want to pay now or do you want to pay even more a little ways down the road?”

Hillsdale County Commissioner Brad Benzing is advocating for the upgrades. Officials say the plan is still in the very early stages. First they will have to come up with a way to pay for it.

“With this enhancement, with this upgrade to the radio system, they’ll actually be able to talk directly radio to radio with those. They’re going to help in other counties when they’re coming to help us,” Sanford said.

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