Friday, June 22, 2012

County rejects dispatch proposal

Leaders say proposed plan would risk lives


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

A proposal by the cities of Hailey, Bellevue and Sun Valley to outsource non-emergency dispatch calls was rejected by Blaine County commissioners and staff Tuesday, saying the proposal would put lives at risk if enacted.

"I know we will always debate whether that's true, but I'm not prepared to find out," said County Administrator Derek Voss during a public hearing in Hailey.

Representatives from the three cities appeared before the commissioners last week, suggesting that emergency calls should be handled by Blaine County Emergency Communications, and that non-emergency calls could be transferred to another entity.

Non-emergency calls include those to law enforcement offices that are routed to dispatch after hours or for license plate checks.

Hailey City Councilwoman Carol Brown said last week that the cities could save up to 65 percent of their dispatch costs.

But Commissioners Tom Bowman and Larry Schoen argued at the time that it could be difficult to discern a non-emergency call from an emergency one—such as if a routine traffic stop turns into a standoff as the driver pulls a gun, Schoen said.

Commissioners retained that position Tuesday following a letter from E-911 Communications Director Robin Stellers that stated that splitting off certain calls would cause operational problems.

"I do not believe that it would be possible to safely operate the dispatch system under the protocol described by the cities," Schoen said during Tuesday's meeting.

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Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall also chimed in during the meeting, saying the city of Ketchum is happy with the way dispatch works now.

"It is inherently dangerous to bifurcate emergency and non-emergency calls," he said. "I want to be clear that the city of Ketchum is not involved in any way, shape or form in this mutiny."

Schoen stated that if the cities continue to pursue the issue of splitting dispatch, the county may be forced to take them to court—especially in the case of nonpayment.

He said the cities have ignored the recommendations of the Idaho Emergency Communications Commission, which handed down a report earlier this year stating that all cities participating in consolidated dispatch must contribute financially.

"If the cities do not accept the recommendations of the IECC, I can only see a solution in a court of law," he said.

Bowman and McCleary said they agreed with Schoen, though McCleary said she would prefer that the cities work out their differences in other forums.

The commissioners also agreed to send a letter to Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe requesting payment for fiscal 2012. Voss said that the city has missed three quarterly payments so far, despite Sun Valley City Councilman Nils Ribi's remark last week that Sun Valley has paid all its dispatch bills.

When contacted via email Thursday, Ribi said he could not comment on the topic. Virginia Egger, interim executive assistant to the mayor, stated in an email that the city has not been invoiced by the county for dispatch services.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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