By Ron VandenBoom
There is a difference between dispatch services offered by the community and Hill County's Emergency 911 service.
That's the word from Capt. Mark Stolen, of the Havre Police Department, and Hill County Sheriff Tim Solomon when confusion resulted after recent announcements that the Havre Police Department was expanding its dispatch service and attempts were being made to add expanded 911 service.
"They are two different things," Solomon said. "And that's the point that I wanted to get out to the public."
Current 911 service is handled by the county and is not enhanced 911. No decision has been made as yet to move 911 from the county to the city.
Enhanced 911 service, according to Clay Vincent, Hill County Sanitarian, is capable of providing dispatchers with the caller's name, address, telephone number, current location, and other information that can assist law enforcement and emergency service agencies.
Solomon said the county has been working on a plan for two years to get enhanced 911 service county-wide and a plan is already in place with the state that would accomplish it within 18 months.
Solomon added that some equipment would have to be added before enhanced 911 could be implemented, but noted that this is also true of the city if it were to acquire enhanced 911.
Stolen acknowledged the city is checking into the possibility of getting enhanced 911 that would cover just Havre, but the problem, according to Solomon is funding two separate 911 services within Hill County.
"If the service is offered in the city," Solomon said, "funding would be so short for the county that it could take 10 years before we could get enhanced 911."
Solomon said he thinks 911 funds were looked on as a way to help subsidize the city dispatch.
"And I think there has been a misunderstanding by that group that the funds are not available to them for what they were hoping for manpower to man their facility down there," he said.
Solomon said this is some of the confusion he is hoping to clear up by getting the story out to the public.
Solomon and Stolen agree that service to the public is the most important issue regardless of whether Hill County or the city of Havre eventually gets the service.
"Both the police department and the sheriff's office agree that it needs to be done for the best wherever it's at," Stolen said. "When it's done it has to be done for the benefit of everybody."
Solomon said that while as a taxpayer living within the city limits he would like to see enhanced 911 service in Havre, he is also driven by the people he serves, or the entire county.
Stolen agreed, noting that both entities want what is best for their constituencies.
No decision has been reached regarding any relocation of 911 service from the Sheriff Department to the City. That decision, if and when it comes, will be made by the Hill County 911 Committee a committee consisting of six members, three from Havre and three from Hill County, that regulates 911 service in the county.