MENOMINEE, Mich. (WJMN) – According to Menominee County 911, the Menominee County Board of Commissioners approved a plan to replace the county’s more than 20-year-old emergency communications system.

The County began working with GCCSS Consulting in early 2020 to evaluate the current system and explore replacement options. Michigan’s Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS) is an 800 MHz radio system owned and maintained by the State of Michigan. The system is the second-largest trunked communication system in the world, 79 out of 83 Michigan counties operate on the system.

All of the law enforcement agencies in Menominee County already use MPSCS for their communication but now all fire and EMS agencies will join them. Andrew Primeaux, 911 director for Menominee County, says the system provides a long-term solution for communication.

“This proposal to join Michigan’s Public Safety Communications System provides the best possible equipment to keep our first responders safe, provides a long-term solution for emergency communications, and is the best value for the residents of Menominee County,” said Primeaux.

The county had originally planned to build a new VHF radio system to be owned and operated by the county but the original cost estimate for the plan tripled in addition to the annual leasing and maintenance costs to increase by five times. The only cost to the county with the MPSCS is the initial cost to purchase new radio equipment used by first responders and a new radio console used by dispatchers. The cost to switch is estimated at $2.5 million. They will purchase new portable radios and pagers for first responders, mobile radios for vehicles and a radio console for the 911 center.

Some of the funding will come from the American Rescue Plan. Menominee County Administrator, Jason Carviou, says the project is a great use for the grant funding because it fits squarely within the intent and spirit of the American Rescue Plan Act.

 “The project is directly related to the County’s response to COVID-19, benefits the entire community, and shares the grant funding with all of the local municipalities in the County,” said Carviou. “By joining Michigan’s Public Safety Communications System, it allows Menominee County to ensure our continuity of vital emergency services as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 Pandemic and any future pandemics or other disasters that we may face.”

One advantage of MPSCS is that other dispatch centers can securely interface on the system. If an emergency were to incapacitate enough employees to the point that Menominee County 911 (Central Dispatch) could not operate, another dispatch center could step in to assume temporary dispatching operations. Menominee County 911 could offer the same assistance to another dispatch center if needed as well.

“At the end of the day, it is about creating redundancy in the system and ensuring the preservation of life and property our community deserves,” said Primeaux.

Menominee County received $4.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just over $500,000 of the grant money is allocated as lost revenue due to COVID-19 in 2020, this can be used for general government services. The switch is expected to be complete by the end of 2022.