Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dispatch surplus funds could go toward upgrade

Commissioners say partners must agree


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

An estimated $74,000 in surplus dispatch funding could be used to upgrade dispatch radio software this year, the Blaine County commissioners said last week.

Commissioner Angenie McCleary said the dispatch partners—the county and the cities of Ketchum, Hailey, Sun Valley and Bellevue—paid their bills in full for fiscal 2012, and Blaine County Emergency Communications came in under budget to the tune of $74,000, which has been pushed into a trust.

Commissioner Jacob Greenberg suggested during a public meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18, that the $74,000 could be used for a software upgrade for the county’s 700 MHz radio system, which needs to be upgraded every two years. The county is working with other counties across the state to work on a state-funded solution for paying for those upgrades—but in the short-term, the county must foot the bill.

“This would be a short-term solution to a long-term problem,” County Administrator Derek Voss said.

Voss added that all the dispatch partners would need to agree to use those funds for the upgrade, which could pose a problem considering the somewhat contentious discussions over more general dispatch funding.

 The city of Sun Valley has stated that it believes the funding method for the county’s consolidated dispatch system is unfair, and the cities of Hailey and Bellevue have stated they may want to break from the consolidated dispatch system entirely. That would put a damper on any discussions regarding “leftover” funding from fiscal 2012, Voss said.

“We’re far from working as a collaborative group at the moment,” he said. “We’re not sure [our partners] are going to pay the bill [for this year]. The county should be very careful before spending that money, when it might not get the money it thought it was going to get for existing programming.”

McCleary said in a later interview that the $74,000 could also be used for other dispatch expenses or could be refunded to the partners. She said the dispatch partners will need to discuss the possible use of the funds for software upgrades early next year.

Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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