Hailey and Sun Valley city leaders on Monday approved a one-year contract for dispatch services, including non-emergency communications, with Blaine County. The county was scheduled to vote on the contract after press deadline on Tuesday and Bellevue is expected to vote on the issue today, June 5.
Hailey and Sun Valley’s approval of the contract is contingent on the county and Bellevue doing so as well. Walt Femling, Sun Valley’s interim police chief, said in an interview after the special Sun Valley City Council meeting at which the council approved the contract that he expects the other two entities to approve it also.
“They’ve accepted the draft,” he said. “Now it’s just the formality of voting for it.”
Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe said in an interview before the Sun Valley meeting that he had requested that Femling research “funding compromises” that might be acceptable to all of the entities involved. Briscoe said he’d asked Femling to do so after Bellevue and Hailey agreed in March to contract coverage of the cities’ non-emergency dispatch calls with the Southern Idaho Regional Communications Center instead of with the Blaine County dispatch system, as long as Sun Valley did too. Briscoe said then that the city would favor staying with the county.
Sun Valley, Bellevue and Hailey have protested the city dispatch funding mechanism since E-911 dispatch was implemented in Blaine County in 2007. The county is required to provide emergency communications to entities in its jurisdiction, but charges for non-emergency calls.
“It’s nice to see everyone coming together and agreeing.”
Sun Valley interim police chief
Emergency communications are partly funded by an E-911 levy, a $1 charge on all phone lines. The county chips in an additional $410,000 to fund the remaining cost of emergency 911 calls and calls to dispatch from the Blaine County Sheriff's Office. Cities and other entities such as Wood River Fire & Rescue split the remaining expenses—mostly for administrative calls—based on the number of addresses in each city.
Femling presented a new “simplified” cost-share model at a Sun Valley council meeting in April, which would charge the entities based on the types of dispatch services they provide, not on the number of addresses. Femling said this week that the new contract is based in part on his model, but also incorporates some changes requested by the other entities.
“The new contract is based on operational costs and a preferred staffing plan of having at least two dispatchers on at all times,” he said.
Bellevue currently pays the county $26,085 for non-emergency calls; Hailey pays $142,074; and Sun Valley pays $110,350, according to figures from Femling. Femling said that SIRCOMM would have charged $16,450, $89,250 and $69,300, respectively. However, he said switching to SIRCOMM would have cost each city more than that because they would have had to purchase and maintain new equipment to comply with SIRCOMM’s system. The new contract would charge $20,868, $113,659 and $88,280, respectively, and $505,957 to the county.
If all of the involved entities approve the new contract, non-emergency dispatch service will cost the three cities less, and the county more.
“Countywide, a lot of people have put a lot of effort into [the contract],” Femling said. “It’s nice to see everyone coming together and agreeing. The citizens of Blaine County win when that happens.”
Express reporter Tony Evans contributed to this report.