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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of October 15 - 21, 2003


Allen and Co. to give $250,000 for E-911

Express Staff Writer

Allen and Co., a New York City-based investment banking company that hosts an annual summer conference in Sun Valley, has ponied up $250,000 for construction of a consolidated dispatch facility in Blaine County.

When built, the facility will house the county’s emergency 911 communications center, which voters approved in a ballot issue last November.

What’s more, a home for the facility may have been found. In a meeting Tuesday night, Blaine County School District Superintendent Jim Lewis was expected to recommend to the school board that a portion of the old Wood River High School be reserved for the communications center, said Len Harlig, Wood River-Sawtooth Region EMS Association chairman.

Harlig made the announcements during a meeting with Blaine County commissioners Tuesday afternoon. The announcements came as news, however, to Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling, who had also been negotiating with Allen and Co. for funding for E-911 in Blaine County.

But Femling, who has been working with a local communications committee to prioritize Blaine County’s emergency needs, had been lobbying for money to buy equipment rather than a building.

"They wanted to help where our greatest need was," Femling said. "This is for a building, which is not our greatest need. We’re going two different directions."

Femling said his biggest concern is purchasing the equipment necessary to implement E-911. Finding a home for a consolidated dispatch facility could follow, he said.

But Harlig countered.

"We have a lot of needs," he said. "This is one piece of the puzzle."

The $250,000 challenge grant to be contributed by Allen and Co. will be a matching grant, Harlig said, adding that the EMS Association is prepared to undertake fundraising efforts to match the donation.

"The urgent need for E-911 and consolidated dispatch has generated this challenge grant to encourage other generous members of the community to join Allen and Co. in making the new E-911 center a reality as soon as possible," Harlig wrote in a press release.

As for the old Wood River High School as a proposed home for the consolidated dispatch center, Harlig said the facility would only pay its proportionate share of utilities and maintenance.

"There would be no other rent costs," Harlig said.

This fall, the old high school is being converted to a community center that will house the Blaine County Recreation District, College of Southern Idaho and some of the Blaine County School District’s academy programs.

"Dr. Lewis considers the campus to have been paid for by the taxpayers already and sees no economic justification for making the taxpayers pay again," Harlig said. "Additionally, the school district wants the campus to accommodate a wide variety of community agencies and services and be a true community resource."

Finally, a power struggle between the Blaine County Commissioners and the county’s five mayors over a proposed governing structure for the new facility appears to be nearing conclusion.

As part of the governing model, the county’s five mayors were to select three candidates to fill one seat on the five-member emergency services dispatch and communications center governing board. The Blaine County Commission was to have final authority over which of the three candidates would be appointed to the seat.

In August, however, the valley’s mayors only selected one candidate, Ketchum City Administrator Ron LeBlanc.

Tuesday, Commissioner Mary Ann Mix said the mayors have agreed to supply two additional names, perhaps following a mayor’s meeting in Carey this month.

"We might select the person they’ve given us," said Commissioner Dennis Wright, "after they give us two more names."



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