by Ellen Thompson
In a meeting scheduled to discuss the pros, cons and costs of housing a new 911 center in either the county or the city, Havre Police Chief Mike Barthel surprised Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera by announcing that he had just ordered a $76,900 radio after obtaining a promise of a private donation.
"It definitely forces the issue," Szudera said after the meeting.
The two met Tuesday after the joint city-county 911 Committee decided Monday, due to new cost estimates, to revisit a nearly 3-year-old decision to locate the enhanced-911 center at the Havre Police Department.
E-911 allows dispatchers to see the address of a caller, a service developed to shorten response time.
"The main issue, it was a $14,000 to $20,000 (cost) for our radio to be upgraded and it would take $76,900 to bring the city up," Szudera said. "The city has already purchased that, so it's sort of a moot point."
Barthel said a private citizen, who doesn't want be identified yet, offered earlier this month to give the city the money it needs to upgrade its radio to meet new federal standards and also make it compatible with the e-911 feature.
Barthel said he decided after Monday's meeting to order the new radio and demonstrate that the city is committed to going forward with e-911.
Monday's meeting "... did prompt me to get moving on this to show that the city is determined to provide the best service to the residents of the county and the residents of the city of Havre," Barthel said.
He added that the Police Department found "a way to fund it and not put a burden on the taxpayer."
In addition to the new radio, the Havre department also will need interior remodeling and electrical grounding to be able to serve as the e-911 center.
Barthel said the city could save money by using some of its own people to do the work. He also said the donor described his initial gift as "round one."
He said the donor will be identified when the city receives the money. Meanwhile, Barthel identified the person as someone with ties to the Havre Police Department.
"It's been voted on and approved by the board and we're moving forward," Barthel said today. "The state has already approved the plan ... Let's just go forward."
Even with the radio purchase, Szudera said he was not sure all the cost differences are covered.
"My only question now is the cost of dispatching," Szudera said.
Szudera said money could still be saved by using the Hill County Detention Center because staffers already work there 24 hours a day.
Both men agreed during the meeting that consolidating police and sheriff's dispatching at either location was a new possibility. Szudera strongly supported the idea, while Barthel said some duplication of services might be good if one location temporarily lost service.
The 911 Committee agreed that another meeting would be needed after the sheriff and police chief spoke Tuesday.