Friday, April 17, 2009

Hailey rejects 'user's group' input on dispatch

Debate lingers over long-term funding of services


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Hailey officials are taking issue with a letter sent by the Blaine County Commission requesting input from an emergency dispatch "user's group" on future funding models for payment of emergency dispatch services.

County officials say advice from the user's group, made up primarily of emergency first-responder agency representatives, is necessary moving forward.

"I had grave concerns reading this letter," said Hailey Councilwoman Carol Brown at a City Council meeting Monday. "It is probable that within one year we could be back where we started."

Hailey Mayor Rick Davis said the user's group should not be responsible for re-evaluating funding models.

"That is a political decision," he said.

Earlier this month, Sun Valley was the last municipality in the county to approve a funding model to pay dispatcher's salaries based on a "dwelling unit" model for fiscal year 2010. The model determines the amount each municipality will pay for emergency dispatch services based on the number of addresses in each jurisdiction.

The approval marked the apparent end to a yearlong dispute over who pays what for the newly consolidated emergency dispatch center in Hailey. Under the approved plan, Hailey will pay $138,898 and Bellevue $28,569 next year. Sun Valley and Ketchum will pay $112,098 and $164,173, respectively.

"The calculations for 2010 may or may not endure," said County Commissioner Larry Schoen.

On April 2, Schoen wrote a letter to Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich urging him to commit to the "dwelling unit" model for one year.

The letter also called for the user's group to "re-evaluate the pros and cons of the principal funding models that have come to light during community-wide discussions."

"That is, not to make a recommendation on the best model, or who pays for what, but to elucidate how exemplary dispatch affects and is affected by these models," Schoen wrote.

The user's group established the original "per-calls" model that Hailey refused to follow last year, leading to a tax-levy override ballot initiative to pay for the dispatch center. The initiative failed.

Schoen defended inclusion of information from the user's group in future funding decisions for dispatch.

"I am asking the user's group to evaluate if there are links between the funding models and levels of service, but the decision on which funding model is used rests with elected officials."

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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