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For the week of June 26 - July 2, 2002


Enhanced 911 system to go on ballot

"There are no counties of our size that don’t have E-911. Many people in our community think we already have an E-911."

Leonard Harlig, vice chair of the Wood River/Sawtooth Emergency Medical Services Council

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County voters will be asked in November to decide whether they want to impose a $1-per-month fee on their phone bills to fund installation of an enhanced 911 system.

Following a presentation by local emergency services providers at the Old County Courthouse on Monday, the county commissioners unanimously voted to include the question as a Nov. 5 general election ballot measure.

An enhanced 911 system would inform dispatchers of a call’s place of origin. The county’s two dispatch points, at the sheriff’s office and Ketchum Police Department, have caller I.D., which reveals the caller’s phone number. However, determining the location from that can take time. Furthermore, in a resort area, many callers are unfamiliar with their locations and cannot give accurate directions.

"We have had a lot of near misses," said Leonard Harlig, vice chair of the Wood River/Sawtooth Emergency Medical Services Council, made up of all the local police, fire and medical agencies. "A minute or two can make the difference between a house burning down or someone getting shot in a robbery or someone going into cardiac arrest."

The system would also inform dispatchers which agency is responsible for responding to the call.

Cam Daggett, Sun Valley police chief and chair of the council’s communications committee, told the commissioners that installation of the system would cost $427,624, and maintenance would run $3,969 per month. Collection of the $1-per-month fee on the county’s approximately 24,000 phones would begin next February. That would raise $442,000 by July 2004, when the system would be installed.

A 60 percent majority would be required in November to approve imposition of the fee.

"There are no counties of our size that don’t have E-911," Harlig said. "Many people in our community think we already have an E-911."

He said the sheriff’s office and Ketchum Police Department may want to consolidate their dispatch systems, but the installation of an E-911 system could be installed before that is resolved. In an interview, Daggett said consolidation would cost about $2 million and is probably unfeasible without a federal grant. He said a grant application for that purpose submitted to the Department of Commerce last year has so far been unsuccessful.

Harlig said recent problems encountered by Ada and Twin Falls counties with their E-911 systems were connected more with efforts to consolidate dispatch points than with the systems themselves.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.