Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Officials optimistic about dispatch meeting

Public is invited to attend Friday, Dec. 5, meeting on dispatch funding dispute


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

Heading into what many local leaders hope is their last meeting to discuss possible answers to a dispatch funding dispute that's dragged on since last spring, at least one official thinks that solution will be discovered.

The meeting is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 5, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will be open to the public in the upstairs meeting room at the Old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey.

"I feel good," said Blaine County Commissioner Angenie McCleary. "I think everyone is anxious to come to a resolution."

McCleary said the same goes for everyone else who has watched the issue stretch on since Hailey and Bellevue leaders announced in June that because of significant revenue shortfalls they couldn't provide funding to help pay for dispatcher salaries.

In the months since their initial refusal to participate was made clear, Hailey and Bellevue officials reluctantly agreed to contribute a portion of the funding amount the county had requested they pay to help fund the salaries of 12 to 13 dispatchers at the county's consolidated dispatch center. The annual price tag for funding the dispatcher salaries is estimated at $835,000.

McCleary said everyone coming to the Friday meeting is aware of the need to address the issue.

"I think the public is ready for us to come to a resolution," she said.

Until recently, a Dec. 11 session at which local city and county leaders were to meet in a mediation setting before the Idaho Emergency Communications Commission had hung over talks like a large storm cloud, reminding them of the need to come to a solution soon. But that date was cancelled by the state commission because not all parties involved in the dispute had agreed to enter into mediation.

McCleary said the emergency communications commission is holding off on setting a new date until and if it becomes clear that no solution is forthcoming. She hopes that won't be necessary.

"I think we really need to figure this out now," she said.

At the table on Friday will be a representative from each of the funding partners for the county's new consolidated dispatch center. At issue is who should fund the dispatcher salaries at the center, as the county covers construction and other costs of the center.

The funding partners who are contributing to the dispatch salaries are the county, Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey, Bellevue, Wood River Fire and Rescue, and the Carey Rural Fire Department.

McCleary said she hopes all of the participants at the meeting—which will include presentations by the 911 users group that developed the funding scenario Hailey and Bellevue have protested—will come with ideas for how to move past the dispute.

She said a second purpose of the meeting will be to forge a greater level of trust between the county and area jurisdictions and come up with "a model of how we can solve other problems that are going to face this community."




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