Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hailey rejects dispatch mediation

All eyes on Nov 19. meeting

Express Staff Writer

Hailey won't participate in a mediation process called for by Sun Valley to settle a dispute over funding dispatcher salaries at the newly consolidated emergency dispatch center in Hailey.

"I wouldn't touch this with a 10-foot pole," said Hailey City Councilman Don Keirn, referring to the terms of mediation set out by the Idaho Emergency Communications Commission, the state agency charged with settling disputes among local governments over consolidation of emergency communication services.

During a City Council meeting Monday, Keirn and others on the council took issue with the mediation format, which calls for 15-minute presentations by cities involved in the dispute, followed by rebuttals. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Dec 11.

"The rebuttals are one-sided," Keirn said. "Forget it."

"I don't think this even complies with the Idaho Mediation Act," said Councilwoman Carol Brown. "This would set us back. It is an adversarial process, not a let's-fix-it process."

However, the council expressed unanimous support for a county-initiated meeting to include cities and emergency services scheduled for Nov.19.

"This will be our first opportunity to talk about these issues together," said Councilman Fritz Haemmerle, who called the county's initial request for funding a "double tax" on Hailey citizens.

The city has maintained that dispatch-funding decisions were made without Hailey's elected officials at the table.

An effort to provide permanent funding by raising property taxes failed at the polls in early November. It is hoped that the Nov. 19 meeting will head off possible litigation between north and south county municipalities over who pays for what when it comes to emergency dispatch services.

Hailey council members on Monday authorized payment of the first of 12 monthly installments, totaling $64,700, for its share of emergency dispatch services for 2009. That's about a quarter of the $269,000 requested by the county based on the projected number of emergency calls for each city in the county.

Hailey agreed to continue its payments as long as the level of emergency dispatch services remains the same.

Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter told the council that the level of service had not diminished in recent weeks following the dispute.

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