by Larry Kline
Havre Daily News
The city of Havre is asking Hill County officials to divide up 911 funds totaling more than $300,000 so both the city and the county can move forward with separate enhanced-911 plans.
In a letter sent last week, Havre Mayor Bob Rice asked the Hill County commissioners to set aside $150,000 for each jurisdiction.
"This offer is made with the understanding that both the city and the county have attempted to find a joint plan. ... Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to reach a compromise," Rice's letter said.
The letter made no mention of a suggestion made by county officials last week to involve a mediation service in finding a solution.
Rice said today he would be open to negotiations, but has not been contacted by county officials regarding mediation.
"I'd be open to anything that can get this solved," Rice said. "I've always been open to negotiations on this, ever since Day One."
The city and county have been at odds over which agency should provide e-911 in the county. E-911 shows dispatchers the location and phone number of a caller, speeding response time.
The city-county 911 committee voted in 2002 to place the primary e-911 dispatch center at the Havre police station. On Jan. 11, the committee reversed its decision and named the Hill County Detention Center as the primary location, citing lower costs.
The city and county have since begun the process of filing plans with the state that would create separate 911 jurisdictions within Hill County.
Havre Police Chief Mike Barthel said last week the 911 fund contains about $322,000. The city-county fund receives about $17,000 every three months, with the payments coming from a 50-cent surcharge on all phone lines in the county, Barthel said.
In his letter, Rice proposed that the remaining money be used to cover ongoing 911 expenses. The letter also asks that any future money be divided according to the number of phone lines in the city and the county.
The city's draft e-911 proposal says there are 6,575 phone lines within the city limits.
Hill County has 2,559 lines, which excludes Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. The surcharge there goes into a 911 fund for the Rocky Boy Police Department.
County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said today the commissioners will consider the city's proposal at a meeting March 21. She said she thinks mediation is called for.
"Right now I think it's a pretty good idea because there have been so many hard feelings," Bessette said.