By Larry Kline/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The long and tumultuous process to bring enhanced-911 services to the citizens of Havre and Hill County has taken yet another turn. The Havre City Council endorsed a plan to create a separate call center at the Havre Police Department.
The unanimous vote Tuesday night came after council members heard conflicting information from Havre Police Chief Mike Barthel and County Commissioner Mike Anderson regarding an e-911 plan county officials submitted to the state.
Barthel said the plan, dated Jan. 31, would give county residents e-911 service but exclude city residents. The service would be provided by dispatchers at the Hill County Detention Center.
He said the city needs to move forward with its own plan in order to ensure that Havre residents receive e-911, a service that speeds response time by showing dispatchers the phone number and location of the caller.
Anderson disagreed with Barthel and said the county's plan includes the city. He said the plan named the county jail as the primary call center and the police station as a backup. The plan, he said, was a reverse of the plan submitted to and approved by the state in 2002. That plan named the city as the primary and the county as a backup.
Barthel then returned to the podium and said the county plan only lists about 1,000 phone lines for Hill County and excludes the city.
Anderson said after the meeting that he was not sure where Barthel was coming from.
"Without talking to Mike, I don't understand what he's talking about," he said. "It's the (2002) plan in reverse. The council voted to pull away from the 911 committee and go ahead with their own plan, and in doing that obligated the city to foot the bill. And I don't think anybody realizes that."
E-911 will be paid for by a phone bill surcharge that's under control of the 911 committee. Anderson said the city won't have access to that money if it proceeds with its own plan.
State 911 program manager Becky Berger said in a letter dated Feb. 4 that if the city and the county are unable to reach an agreement and obtain all of the required signatures, she recommended separate plans be drafted including all of the costs for each call center.
"Until they actually see the costs, in a plan, on paper, I don't think it's going to be as apparent to the parties that they can't do it alone," she said today. "As county commissioners and public officials, they'll see" the added costs of two locations.
Berger said she had heard talk of city and county officials meeting with an impartial mediator.
"I would suggest they do that," she said.
City Council member Terry Schend said he hoped the city and the county could sit down and work things out, and said he didn't see the point in duplicating services.
"I still think the most efficient thing would be a single dispatching service," he said.
City Council member Emily Mayer Lossing said she would vote for the city to submit its plan in order to have the state look over the situation and find a solution to the problem.
"I've heard a lot of conflicting information," she said.
The joint city-county 911 committee voted Jan. 11 to locate the primary call center at the detention center instead of the police station after a cost analysis showed that it would be more expensive to upgrade the city's dispatch center for e-911. The police department has since received a private donation of $100,000 in equipment.
The decision reversed a 2002 vote that placed the primary call center in the city and a backup center at the county.