City of Muskegon Heights to Join Muskegon Central Dispatch’s Internet Phone System

Andrew Trzaska | December 14, 2011

Muskegon Heights plans to switch its phone service from standard landlines to a internet-based system shared by many municipalities in the county at a significant cost savings.

Voice Over Internet Protocol technology, or VOIP, will deliver phone calls via DSL internet connections to city hall.

City manager Natasha Henderson called the move “An example of collaboration at its best… consolidation with great benefits.”  She noted that this move by the city could meet certain state economic vitality incentives.

Muskegon Central Dispatch leads the move to VOIP, and the cities of Norton Shores, Fruitport, Muskegon, North Muskegon and Whitehall, among others, are currently involved.

The city’s finance department, city manager Natasha Henderson and police chief Lynn Gill all spoke to the value of the system at Monday’s meeting.

New fiber lines will not need to be run to city hall for the service, as the city’s police and fire departments already have the lines; this is a significant cost savings for implementation.

New phone equipment will need to be purchased, and will cost $40,000 over 5 years.  According to the city’s finance department, this will still save the city $7,000 a year for until the equipment is paid off; after that, savings of roughly $15,000 a year will be achieved.

Chief Gill spoke to the value of the system, which will allow for a more sophisticated, computer-integrated for voicemail and other features.

“It really revolutionizes telecommunications,” said Gill. “Right now we’re limited to how many phones we can actually set up in our departments.”

It was also noted Monday that those on Muskegon Central Dispatch system to communicate between each other using only 4-digit extensions.

The VOIP service will be applied to city hall, but Henderson indicated it may be applied to the city’s water filtration plant and pumping stations in the coming years.

Councilman Vernonell Smith, who works in the telecommunications industry, did stress to the council that the city must maintain landline service in some capacity in case the VOIP system goes down.

Chief Gill indicated that Muskegon Central Dispatch has installed redundancies to keep the system active.

On this information, Henderson indicated there is only a “slim chance” the system would drop.  Henderson did also indicate the city would maintain at least one landline in buildings with VOIP in the event the system does go down.

City officials indicated Frontier is the current phone service provider for the City of Muskegon Heights.

The resolution to move toward the VOIP system

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst