Havre Daily News
Havre-Hill County 911 Board member and county sanitarian Clay Vincent is protesting a proposed tax increase for city residents, and some Havre City Council members say they agree.
The City Council is set to vote on the proposed budget tonight.
At least one council member said today she will vote against the budget.
In a letter addressed to the City Council, Vincent spoke out against raising taxes, saying the city had ample opportunity to save between $35,000 and $80,000 a year by consolidating emergency dispatch services at the Hill County Detention Center. The money instead will be spent on a duplication of services, he wrote.
"The Council voted to disregard this information and will be spending a lot more money to dispatch 911 services (than) necessary," Vincent wrote. "Havre is a great community and it does not need two dispatch agencies."
Vincent could not be reached for comment today.
Havre City Council member Emily Mayer Lossing said she agrees with Vincent.
"I believe Clay Vincent is a very wise man," Mayer Lossing said. "He knows what he's talking about. His thoughts weigh very heavily on my decision making."
Mayer Lossing said she will not vote for the budget. She said she does not agree with the way the budget is laid out and thinks some of the cuts and increases are unfair.
"We need to get back to a little better common sense with the budget," she said. "I will not be voting for this budget in the form it has been handed to me, because I don't believe it's fair."
She said travel and training budgets for all city departments remained the same or increased, while the City Council's allowance was cut. She echoed concerns raised by council member Allen "Woody" Woodwick over an increase in expenditures for Havre Mayor Bob Rice's travel.
Rice could not be reached for comment today.
Woodwick said today he is unsure of whether he will vote for the budget. He said he agrees with Vincent's letter, but added that the city must move on.
"Duplication of services is costing us a bunch of money, especially at a time when we need to be saving as much money as possible," he said.
Havre Police Chief Mike Barthel said today that he disagreed with some of the facts of Vincent's letter.
Vincent wrote that "Fifty six counties in this state have figured out ways to consolidate emergency dispatch services and they are doing it."
Barthel said he knows of several counties that have multiple agencies performing dispatch services.
Barthel also said Vincent was asked to put the matter to rest at Tuesday's meeting of the 911 board.
"The city and county had agreed that to consolidate dispatch was not in the best interest of the city and the county at the time," he said.
Barthel also noted that the city and county had signed an agreement to not bring forth the issue of dispatch consolidation for at least five years.
In 2003, the city-county 911 board decided to locate the enhanced-911 call center at the city's communications center. In January, the board voted to place the center at the county jail, citing the costs to upgrade the city's dispatch facility. In a compromise this spring, the board again decided to place the primary center at the city, after city officials began moving forward with their plan, and have a secondary center at the jail.
John and Darlene Sharp donated more than $100,000 to the city to use for equipment purchases for its center.
Vincent called the donation a "great gift," but wrote that "employee costs are the biggest concerns."
The duplication of services will cost between $35,000 and $80,000 a year, he wrote.
"Over thirty years, the savings could be $2.4 million if only six dispatchers are used instead of eight," Vincent wrote.