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Michigan County's Cell Phone Surcharge Will Fund 911 Operations

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- As land-line users already do, owners of cell phones and similar devices will be paying a surcharge for 911 in Allegan County, Mich.

The fee still has to be approved by the state, but when it goes into effect, Allegan County will collect $1.66 per device per month, which should raise about $1.2 million yearly for 911 operations, according to County Administrator Robert Sarro.

Traditional land-line phones already are surcharged $2.85 per month. The new fee for other devices is based on a state formula, according to Sarro.

The county has been getting some money for cell phones through the state. "The state has collected 52 cents per cell phone," Sarro said. Of that the county gets 10 cents.

Besides cell phones, the new fee goes on other wireless devices that can access 911 services, including voice-over-Internet-protocol VOIP phone services, such as that offered by Vonage, Charter or Comcast, among others.

In doing so, the county is taking advantage of a state law that recently went into effect allowing the surcharge.

Undersheriff Jim Hull said the move will stabilize funding for the county's Central Dispatch Department. "It's (funding) been up and down for several years," Hull said.

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