Figures presented to board on Clinton Township emergency incidents

By: Alex Szwarc | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published September 10, 2021

 Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said the police and fire departments responded to more than 55,000 incidents in Clinton Township last year.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said the police and fire departments responded to more than 55,000 incidents in Clinton Township last year.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — By the end of this year, Clinton Township will vote on whether or not to renew a dispatch contract with Macomb County.

First, it learned about dispatch services at the Aug. 30 Clinton Township Board of Trustees meeting.

The township board heard a presentation from Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, who provided an update on Sheriff’s Office services, as they relate to Clinton Township.

The sheriff first spoke about the Macomb County Communications and Technology Center, or COMTEC.

“We did some consolidation with Clinton Township and Sterling Heights and created a central dispatch system where all 911 calls come in from your community,” Wickersham said. “We dispatch police, fire and EMS from there.”

He said technology continually increases, everything must be logged on a computer and information is given from the dispatchers to either deputies, police officers, fire, EMS or individuals who request help.

“We can help you deliver a baby, do CPR and provide medical attention until the fire department and ambulances get there,” Wickersham said.

In 2019, he cited that the Clinton Township Police Department was dispatched 46,353 times for incidents. The fire department was dispatched 13,878 times.

Last year, the number of incidents responded to in Clinton Township saw a slight reduction. The numbers were 44,294 for police and 11,248 for fire.

“For 911 calls coming in for emergencies in 2019, 48,137 calls came into the center,” he said.

Last year, that number was 47,506.

“That’s just for Clinton Township,” Wickersham said. “Then we have Sterling Heights, the Sheriff’s Office and the northern part of the county. You can see the dispatchers are very busy in that center with the calls that are coming in.”

To help offset training, staffing levels at times and equipment replacement, Wickersham noted there is a 911 fee on cell phones and landlines, part of someone’s phone bill. Those funds, $162,464 received in 2019 in Clinton Township, go to the Public Safety Answering Point. Last year, $161,000 was collected.

Regarding dispatcher training in Macomb County, the sheriff said it’s a six-month program that is intense and broken into different phases like call taking, fire EMS dispatching and police communication.

“Our dispatchers get trained in three police departments — the Sheriff’s Office, Clinton Township and Sterling Heights,” he said.

Wickersham said each dispatcher receives emergency medical dispatch and fire training.

“Each dispatcher is required to complete state training of 40 hours basic within the first 18 months of hire,” he said. “Within the first 24 months, they have to go to a 40-hour advanced training.”

Treasurer Paul Gieleghem said the idea behind combining dispatch service is to make it more efficient and to reduce cost.

“We’ve seen costs rise and have had various intermittent costs along the way,” he said.

Gieleghem asked how costs can be reduced.

Supervisor Bob Cannon said the township no longer has legacy costs with the dispatchers.

“We were at a junction where we either had to hire a lot of new dispatchers and start a new set of legacy costs, or go to the Sheriff’s Office,” Cannon said. “It was extremely successful with the police and took a little longer for fire, but now the fire department is equally happy about it.”

Wickersham said the Sheriff’s Office isn’t in it to make money — rather, it is recouping its costs.

“There’s an increase because the dispatchers have been receiving pay raises, which they didn’t have,” he said. “I tell every community that if you had your own dispatchers, they would be receiving those wage increases and your costs would go up.”   

The board did not take action on renewing the Macomb County dispatch contract, which expires Dec. 31. A vote will take place later this year on the contract.

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