Friday, April 1, 2011

Will Sun Valley pay or say nay?

City to hold April 7 meeting over whether to pay for dispatch services


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

Wayne Willich

A standoff between the city of Sun Valley and Blaine County, which has threatened to cut off emergency-dispatch services to the city if it doesn't pay $117,000 demanded for the service, could come to an end April 7.

The Sun Valley City Council will discuss whether it will pay the bill Thursday at 3 p.m. in City Hall. The council informally agreed at a March 17 meeting to pay it in part, handing over $85,000 that it budgeted for the service this fiscal year—now half over—but never paid. The council now has to formally vote on the $85,000 for the county to be handed the check.

But that's $32,000 short, and the county commissioners are unlikely to change their request, meaning services to Sun Valley may be limited, based on County Commissioner Angenie McCleary's response at the March 17 meeting.

Sun Valley Councilwoman Joan Lamb said March 17 that the city shouldn't cave in to the county's "bullying" but decide what it actually owes based on the service received.

The contention stems from the structure used to determine the amount each jurisdiction pays for emergency-dispatch services. The county divides cities' payments based on the number of addresses in each jurisdiction, rather than by the number of calls. The system has been vehemently opposed by the city of Sun Valley, which contends that many of its residences are second homes, vacant the vast majority of the year, and don't need nearly as much service as occupied homes.

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The council told McCleary on March 17 that it wants the county's word that it will change the payment structure to make it "fair."

Even though the issue has gone unresolved for six months, the council discussed it for the first time at that meeting. McCleary said she has had repeated conversations with Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich since September about the city's refusal to pay for the service, and said she was under the impression that Willich was speaking for the council.

"No one on the council has been part of the discussions," said Council President Dewayne Briscoe, who presided over the March 17 meeting in Willich's absence.

Willich, who was not at the meeting because he was away on vacation, is now back and confirmed in an interview that he never told the council of his deliberations with McCleary.

He'll be present at the Thursday meeting, he said.

Trevon Milliard: tmilliard@mtexpress.com




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