By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — A plan to merge the city’s emergency dispatch services with those of Melvindale and Dearborn Heights could be under discussion soon thanks to an almost $4 million grant from the Michigan Competitive Grant Assistance Program.
The city was awarded the money for a Consolidation of Emergency Dispatch Services Project at the beginning of the month and the City Council authorized Finance Director Jim O’Connor to recognize and appropriate the funds for hardware, software and other communication needs at the council meeting April 15.
Fire Chief Joe Murray said the merger plans still are in the preliminary stages, but in order to be grant eligible the three communities needed to show they are interested in exploring the possible merger.
“We are very interested in discussing this and seeing if it will allow us to enhance our services to the community and the city councils in Melvindale and Dearborn Heights are going to be considering it at upcoming meetings,” Murray said.
Murray said a meeting between representatives of the three communities could happen in the next couple months if the other communities approve it.
He also said that about 93 percent of the $3.95 million grant will be used by the city to upgrade its radio system from 400 to 800 MHz and that additional funding will go to installing new consoles that can accept that frequency.
The dispatch services used in Melvindale and Dearborn Heights are at 800 MHz.
Murray also said the city is exploring joining one of the two primary dispatch communications systems in use in the area, either the Downriver dispatch or the state-operated dispatch.
Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said the administration and Fire Department still are deciding which system to join because they both have their benefits.
“The Downriver system has a 13-year fixed cost plus a built-in replacement cost while the state bills you as they go,” O’Reilly said. “The state will unilaterally decide if an upgrade needs to be made and then charge the participating members the cost.”
The 13-year cycle for the Downriver system began this year and will expire in 2027.
O’Reilly said either choice would be good for the city.
“No matter which way we go, our equipment will be operable with everything on that entire system, whether it’s the state or Downriver system,” O’Reilly said. “We will make our decision based on what will give us the most predictable model moving forward.”
He said a decision would be made soon and brought before the council for its approval.
The council next meets May 6.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])