Havre Daily News
The benefactors who brought about sweeping improvements at the Havre police dispatching center were honored Friday in a ceremony at City Hall. John and Darlene Sharp received gracious thanks for their help in upgrading and improving the communications center, which will house enhanced-911 service once it becomes available.
A state 911 official said after the ceremony that the state is close to finalizing a contract with a communications company to implement e-911 service across Montana. The service enables dispatchers to see the location and phone number of an emergency caller and speeds response time.
The Sharps have donated about $130,000 in equipment for the dispatch center. Most of that money went to a new radio system that cost nearly $80,000. The couple also purchased new furniture for the center and paid for the radio system to be grounded.
The improved communications center will now have a touch of Havre's law enforcement past: a plaque honoring the late Andrew Wilson, who served with the Havre Police Department from 1937 to 1963 and retired as assistant chief. Darlene Sharp is Wilson's daughter.
Darlene Sharp said her father would have been astounded by the brand new equipment housed in the dispatch center.
"He wouldn't be able to believe it," she said. "It would be something my dad would very much like. (The year) 1963 was a long time ago."
John Sharp said the donation was a gift to the whole community. The Sharps are committed to donating up to an additional $20,000 in new equipment as it becomes needed.
"We know the city will benefit from this," he said. "They needed it. I said I'd do it, after talking to the wife, of course."
Several city officials expressed their appreciation for the Sharps' gift.
"I think they deserve a lot of recognition from the city of Havre," Havre Mayor Bob Rice said.
"I can't thank you folks enough," Havre Police Chief Mike Barthel said. "Our dispatchers will utilize this equipment for years to come. Your generosity could save a life."
"It was greatly needed and is greatly appreciated," Havre Fire Chief Dave Sheppard said.
The Sharps' donation has turned the dispatch center into an "incredible facility," Havre City Council member Pam Hillery said.
State 911 coordinator Becky Berger said the new system will benefit both Havre citizens and travelers coming through town.
"This opportunity for the city of Havre expands beyond your community," she said.
Berger said after the meeting that she was pleased the city and Hill County were able to settle their dispute over the location of the primary e-911 call center. The two governments sat down last month and began hammering out an agreement that names the city dispatch center as the primary location and the Hill County Detention Center as a backup. The two centers will share information via a microwave link, and day-to-day operations would be governed by both the Havre police chief and the Hill County sheriff. The agreement settled an at-times contentious debate that lasted six months.
The city-county 911 committee had decided earlier this year to locate the primary call center at the Hill County Detention Center because it had been designed for that purpose and was better equipped than the police station.
The Sharps' donation brought the city's facility up to the necessary standards so that the primary call center could be located there instead.
"This situation with the city and the county being able to negotiate this, it's a win-win for everybody," Berger said. "It looks like they have a solution that will work for all of the citizens."
Berger said she has briefed Gov. Brian Schweitzer on contract negotiations with Kalispell-based CenturyTel. She is "very hopeful" to have a five-year contract signed this week, Berger said. CenturyTel would assist the state in deploying e-911 service across Montana.
The state had originally begun negotiations with CenturyTel for 58 call centers, but because of various factors the state is now basing the contract negotiations on 37 call centers, Berger said today.
If the contract is signed, the company will provide information to the individual call centers on the costs for the network, equipment and operations, Berger said.
Barthel said today the city-county 911 board, of which he is a member, has voted to go with the statewide deployment when it becomes available.