Wednesday, March 18, 2009

City should OK dispatch funding

It was disappointing to all those who have worked diligently for so many years to bring consolidated dispatch services to this valley that my vote in favor of approving Sun Valley's participation died for lack of a second at the Sun Valley City Council meeting Thursday evening. As I stated in my supporting remarks, no metric for apportioning costs is going to satisfy everyone, but much like 911 surcharges on telephone service, sharing costs based on dwelling units is one reasonable approach. Service must be available to all dwelling units regardless of occupancy or call level.

The disproportionate number of calls made from Sun Valley compared to those made from Hailey was cited by the other Sun Valley officials as the reason the cost sharing as proposed is not fair to Sun Valley taxpayers. However, Hailey's call volume, whatever it may be, is not what is driving the costs of consolidated dispatch. The costs of providing 24/7 coverage with adequate staffing are fixed. No additional staffing is required whether Hailey participates or not.

As the governing authority, the Consolidated Dispatch Joint Powers Authority board, of which the city of Sun Valley will be a member, will determine the appropriate level and compensation of staff. This is where the management of costs will occur, and Hailey officials have been quite vocal in their requests to reduce staffing expense as much as possible. In addition, the costs proposed for Sun Valley are commensurate with what the city is currently paying.

The entire Wood River Valley emergency services community has devoted years to implementing consolidated dispatch. As the lone hold-out in approving a funding mechanism for it, the city of Sun Valley is further delaying this process, which delay has a very real, albeit somewhat invisible, monetary cost to all taxpayers.

In my years negotiating banking and financial agreements, I learned that in all negotiations, if each side believes it has given up more than it should, it is probably a pretty fair agreement for everyone.

I urge my fellow elected Sun Valley officials to reconsider their positions on this funding proposal. As a community we have other pressing economic challenges to which to turn our attention.

Joan Lamb

Sun Valley City Council

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