By Larry Kline/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
City officials are pressing ahead with a plan to set up enhanced-911 dispatching at the Police Department, despite a vote by a city-county committee to locate the e-911 center at the Hill County jail.
A letter signed by Havre Fire Chief Dave Sheppard, Police Chief Mike Barthel and city public works director Dave Peterson this week asks the Havre City Council to pass a resolution allowing the city departments to proceed with the plan adopted in 2002 by the e-911 committee, which had named the Police Department the area's primary e-911 center.
The letter says that "ongoing negotiations are not possible" between city and county officials on the issue.
At the last e-911 committee meeting on Jan. 11, Mayor Bob Rice, Sheppard and Barthel abruptly stood up and left as county representatives on the committee voted to designate the County Detention Center as the area's e-911 center. The jail houses the Sheriff's Office dispatch center, which currently handles all 911 calls in Hill County.
The letter will be considered at a future meeting of the City Council's Fire and Police Committee.
"The plan was approved (in 2002), and in that plan it recognized the city of Havre as the primary dispatch location, and the county sheriff's office was recognized as a backup," Barthel said.
Enhanced-911 technology identifies the location for each 911 call, which speeds emergency response. In order to provide the service, Havre and Hill County must select a primary call center and choose a service provider. The process has taken four years so far.
Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera said today the letter is a City Council issue for now.
"It's up to the City Council to decide what they want to do with it," he said.
County sanitarian Clay Vincent, who sits on the e-911 committee, said it will be difficult for the city to supersede the authority of the committee, which has been in place since 1987 and was created to oversee 911 operations in an agreement signed by city and county officials.
"It would be kind of tough to go to the City Council and say, 'We don't care what this board has been doing for 17 years and we're just going to go ahead," Vincent said. "They're the group that has the authority."
The committee in November decided to reconsider the placement of the call center at the city after CML Microcircuits Inc., a company that provides e-911 hardware, estimated the city needed at least $100,000 in upgrades to support the service. The company estimated that the jail would need only $30,000 in upgrades.
John and Darlene Sharp then donated $100,000 in equipment to the city.
State 911 program manager Becky Berger said the state will not get involved in the question of where to locate the dispatch center.
"Our position at the state is that these issues have to be resolved between the city and the county," she said.