County to revisit pending issues

The County’s Next March Meetings will Focus on Resolving Outstanding Issues

The 911 consultant has been working on improving communications between Michigan State Police radios and the county’s new 911 Central dispatch 800 MHz radio system, and the county commissioners are expecting a report on their progress in March.

On Thursday, the panel heard from First Lt. Barry Schrader, regional commander, and Jim Swick, 911 director, regarding issues with communication lag between state and local radios. Swick has reported that contractor J&K Communications is addressing the previously uncovered software issues.

After just over $25,000 per year, the county extended the contract with consultants ADC Telcom for two more years to ease the burden of resolving technical issues. Before this: Branch County’s problems with MSP radios persist. Tom Matthew, a commissioner, has also requested updates on four additional matters that have been outstanding for over a year.

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Mathew proposes holding a meeting to discuss the county’s plans for using money from opioid lawsuit settlements and the American Rescue Plan, as well as the nursing home’s long-term financial projections for the Maple Lawn facility and the possibility of forming a committee to handle emergency medical ambulance services.

County to revisit pending issues
County to revisit pending issues

Commissioner Jon Houtz and County Administrator Bud Norman both mentioned that there is currently an EMS-focused subcommittee of the 911 board. Jayne Sabaitis, administrator of the county nursing home Maple Lawn, often updates the public on the facility’s financial health.

Sabaitis presented budgetary concerns to the commission last summer when the state started recovering overpayments from Medicare. Matthew stated he wanted to know what preparations were being made to prevent a repeat of this. The first $225,000 of a total $1.2 million settlement from a 2018 opioid lawsuit filed by Branch County was paid out to the county just recently.

County to revisit pending issues
County to revisit pending issues

Recently, Norman disseminated a state-issued memorandum outlining potential uses for the settlement money. Many requests for funding for local projects were made to the county commissioners after the county got $8.4 million from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act COVID-19 rescue package.

For a county-wide high-speed internet project estimated to cost $45 million to $52 million, the county set its sights on the cash. In December, it partnered with Frontier Communications to seek subsidies from the federal government and individual states in order to finance the potential expansion of the system.

By the end of 2024, the county needs to have decided how it would use the ARPA money for infrastructure projects. The commission members did vote to bring up the issues in March for the sake of the commission’s knowledge and perspective discussion.

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