By Tim Leeds
The Havre City Council unanimously passed a motion Tuesday night to create 3 full-time positions for dispatching services and for the Havre Police Department to negotiate with Hill County for an agreement to set up dispatching services in the city.
Kevin Olson, assistant chief of police, said the plan is to investigate the possibility of creating a communication center for all city services, including police, fire and ambulance services, and to create a new 911 jurisdiction for the city of Havre, which would handle all 911 calls for the county. He said this is contingent on negotiating a new 911 agreement with the county.
Olson said the city is still undergoing negotiations with the county. He said there is a good working relationship with the county and Sheriff Tim Solomon, but the first concern for the city is providing services for the citizens of the city and caring for the needs of the workers in the city. He said care should be taken in the negotiations.
"Level heads need to prevail," he said. "We don't want it to seem like we're drawing a line in the sand."
Olson said there is a need for additional dispatching services, whether at the county or at the city. He said the duties of controllers at the jail in the county justice center should not be combined with dispatcher duties. Olson said this combination of separate duties could create problems if, for example, there was a crisis in the jail while a 911 call was being made with only one person available to handle both duties.
Olson said setting up a city dispatch would not create duplication of services. He said the calls handled by dispatchers have grown by about five times since 1979, but are still handled by one dispatcher. More dispatchers are needed to handle the number of calls, he said. He said creating a communications center in Havre would both better serve the needs of the city and free up manpower for the county facilities.
Olson said the communications center would be used for all city services, not just emergency services. Olson, Councilman Rick Pierson and Mayor Phyllis Leonard all commented on the benefit having 24-hour services in the city would bring. Leonard said there have been times people have called her after hours because of a problem needing city services, such as a water main break. Since the city dispatch only runs 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, she said, people don't know who to call for problems.
Olson said the main concern for funding the project is hiring employees to run the communications center. He said existing capital improvement funds and 911 funds should be able to pay for most of the equipment and remodeling needed for the facility.
Olson said moving the 911 services to Havre would also allow installing enhanced 911 services in the city. He said the services could be upgraded to allow automatic phone number identification and location in the city once such an upgrade is installed. He said this would also provide more 911 funding for the city. Olson said it would probably take six to nine months to upgrade to an enhanced system, after the time it would take for Havre to receive 911 jurisdiction and to install the systems and train dispatchers.
The 1991 interlocal agreement assigning dispatching duties to the sheriff's office for 911 services and routine city dispatching services from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. week nights and 24 hours a day on weekends expired in February of 1997.