Allen and Co. to give $250,000 for
By GREG STAHL
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
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
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
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."