Havre Daily News
The city-county 911 committee looked favorably at a proposal Tuesday that would turn back the clock three months and name the Havre police station as the primary location for a new enhanced-911 call center.
Hill County Commissioner and committee member Mike Anderson asked the committee Tuesday to re-adopt its 2002 plan, overturned in January, which had designated the police station as the call center. In January the committee, citing costs, voted to table the 2002 plan and name the county jail as the primary location.
Anderson's proposal is contingent on the county sheriff and city police chief establishing protocol for routing calls between agencies and deciding on any updates to the 2002 plan.
The two will determine those over the next two weeks and present them at a meeting of the committee on April 26.
The proposal, based on a compromise reached by the city and county attorneys, will potentially resolve a contentious community debate. The comparitive merits of the city and county facilities, and the pros and cons of having one or two call centers in Hill County, were the main subjects of the debate.
The proposal says that both locations will receive the same equipment updates in the future, but the question of consolidating a call and dispatch center at one location, which the county has been pushing for three months, will not be revisited for at least five years.
"We have to get going because the technology is available, the systems are available and the taxpayers are paying for it on their phone charges," Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera, who chairs the 911 committee, said today. "We can't sit on our duffs and wait for an easy solution."
Tuesday's meeting was the committee's first in three months. At its last meeting, Mayor Bob Rice and two other city respresentatives on the committee abrupty left when the committee decided to reverse its 2002 decision.
The city and county each began to work on separate proposals. Both were submitted to the state and have been awaiting approval.
"I appreciate all the guys getting back together today, because we ultimately have to decide this issue," Anderson told the committee.
Though the meeting was full of warm welcomings, not everybody agreed with the compromise.
Hill County planner and sanitarian Clay Vincent, a 17-year member of the committee who was reappointed as its sole at-large member Tuesday, again urged the committee to pay for only one e-911 location.
"Are we here to give the city a spanking?" Mayor Rice asked Vincent, interrupting his speech. Rice said he thought the meeting was about resolving the issue.
Vincent estimated that county employees have spent about $107,000 in time working on 911 issues, including research and administrative costs, which has not been reimbursed from the 911 fund.
"Duplication is very unnecessary. The board knows this and the average citizens know this too," he said.
Vincent did not make a motion to consolidate the two dispatch centers. His point, he said today, was to force certain questions that still have not been answered, such as how the city can house the service when it does not have a working generator.
Vincent presented the projected costs for operating two e-911 call centers in Hill County. The 911 fund, which accumulates from monthly charges on phone service in Hill County, would have a nearly $1,500 surplus a month. The county's stockpiled funds would drop from $320,000 to $78,700 to cover one-time costs.
Havre Fire Chief Dave Sheppard said those figures are encouraging.
In a public comment period following the meeting, Bob Kaul, who has advocated for having only one call center and locating it at the Hill County Detention Center, said he was glad to see committee members working together.
Retired Assistant Police Chief Mark Stolen said: "There are deep wounds that need to heal. I'm very, very enthused about how this thing appears to be going."
Local landlord Charlie Grant told the committee: "You still have the problem of what the people of this county want. They want it up at the Justice Center."
Vincent said today he does not know how he will vote on the compromise proposal when the committee looks at it on April 26.
"I'm just putting it out there because I want to make sure that the people that have talked to me realize I'm not just going to go with the flow," he said. "Some of these questions need to be answered and if it doesn't make a difference, that's fine."