Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sun Valley discusses dispatch dollars

Femling proposes ‘simplified’ E-911 cost share model

Express Staff Writer

    Though Bellevue and Hailey have agreed to contract coverage of the cities’ non-emergency dispatch calls with the Southern Idaho Regional Communications Center—as long as Sun Valley does too—Sun Valley has not yet agreed to do so. Instead, the city favors staying with the current Blaine County dispatch system and has proposed a new cost-share model for that system to the other cities and the county.
    “It is time for responsible leadership in Sun Valley and equitable compromise for all partners to resolve this important issue,” Mayor Dewayne Briscoe said in an interview following a City Council meeting on Thursday, April 4. “The issue has been in a stalemate for too many years as no realistic alternatives were available.”
    Briscoe said he would prefer to stay with the county’s dispatch system, though SIRCOMM has put another option on the table. He said the city would have to buy some new equipment to integrate with SIRCOMM and he’d prefer to keep the jobs in the county.
    Briscoe said he requested that Walt Femling, the city’s acting police chief and former Blaine County sheriff, research “funding compromises” that might be acceptable to all the entities involved.
    Sun Valley, Bellevue and Hailey have protested the city dispatch funding mechanism since E-911 dispatch was implemented in Blaine County in 2007. Emergency communications are partly funded by an E-911 levy, a $1 charge on all phone lines. The county chips in an additional $410,000 to fund the remaining cost of emergency 911 calls and calls to dispatch from the Blaine County Sheriff's Office. Cities split the remaining expenses—mostly for administrative calls—based on the number of addresses in each city.
    At the meeting, Femling presented a new “simplified” cost-share model. He said he has been involved with dispatch in the county for 20 years and that he helped put the current system into place. According to Femling’s model, the cities would pay for percentages of dispatchers based on the types of law enforcement and emergency services each city provides. He also said Blaine County, which employs 13 dispatchers, could be run at the same service level with 11 people. According to figures provided by Femling, that would reduce E-911’s $889,000 communications budget by about $123,000.
    Currently, for emergency and non-emergency dispatch, the county charges Sun Valley about $110,000 per year, Bellevue about $26,000 and Hailey about $142,000. Femling’s model would charge about $85,000, $57,000 and $85,000, respectively, if the number of dispatchers remained at 13. With 11 dispatchers, his model would charge about $59,000, $40,000 and $59,000, respectively. With either 13 or 11 dispatchers, his model would increase the county’s emergency dispatch contribution to about $480,000.
    According to a contract with SIRCOMM—recently approved by Bellevue and Hailey, but dependant on Sun Valley’s approval to go into effect—Hailey would save about $53,000 if it contracted with SIRCOMM. Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson said at a Bellevue City Council Meeting on March 28 that Bellevue would save about $12,000. Sun Valley City Councilman Nils Ribi, who is a member of the city’s dispatch committee, said Sun Valley would save about $41,000.
    County Commissioner Jacob Greenberg said at the Sun Valley meeting that the county wants its system to remain “intact” and would be open to discussing Femling’s proposal with the cities.
    “I appreciate that Walt has opened the discussion,” he said.

Brennan Rego:

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