By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera and Havre Mayor Bob Rice have agreed to a 30-day cooling-off period after three months of sometimes contentious debate over where to locate an enhanced-911 call and dispatch center. Both have agreed not to speak to the media about the issue, Szudera said today. Rice would not comment.
Szudera canceled the enhanced-911 committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 8 because of his agreement with the mayor, Hill County Commissioner Mike Anderson said this week.
At the previous joint city-county e-911 committee meeting in January, the committee decided by a 3-1 vote to reverse a 3-year-old plan to place an enhanced-911 call center at the Havre police station once it becomes available. The January vote approved rewriting the city-county 911 plan to identify the county jail as the primary location for e-911 service.
Rice, Fire Chief Dave Sheppard and Police Chief Mike Barthel walked out of the meeting during the vote. Sheppard was the only one of the three city represenatives to cast a vote.
Since that time, the city has moved ahead with efforts to provide e-911 service at the city location.
The Havre City Council's Police andFire Committee meeting was held Feb. 9, as scheduled.
Havre City Council members Allen "Woody" Woodwick and Pam Hillery said today they think the idea of a cooling-off period has merit, but are skeptical about how closely it was followed since the city meeting was still held.
"(The cooling-off period) seemed like a good idea," Woodwick said, "but it also seems to me that the mayor was testifying about 911 at the Police and Fire Committee meeting two nights afterward, but I don't know what the details were, what they agreed on."
Szudera, who declined to answer questions this morning about the 911 debate, did talk about his agreement with Rice.
"It's just a gentleman's agreement between Bob and I to stay out of the press and let things cool down," he said. "Bob and I each agreed that if he wanted to speak (at the city committee meeting), go ahead."
Rice did speak, urging the committee and the City Council to support going forward with a plan to provide the service in the city.
In an interview Wednesday, Barthel said he had been asked by the mayor not to speak to the media about the 911 issue. He did answer questions about the city's plan, but did not comment on the debate, after consulting the mayor, he said.
"I think the situation is not good," Hillery said about the 911 debate. "People are taking intractable positions and it would be good for them to cool off. However, you can't put off decisions too long. Sometimes you have to saddle up, make the decision and ride out."