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Comm center funding still at impasse
September 26, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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At their regular meeting last week, members of the Scottsbluff City Council approved an agreement proposed by Scotts Bluff County to fund the emergency 911 communications center, but several Gering council members still think the proposal is flawed.

The county’s proposal would help the communications center finance needed upgrades to equipment and is based on population. Scottsbluff would assume approximately 40 percent of the cost and Gering would contribute 20 percent.
Over the next three years, the County is asking for $496,631from everyone to help with the technology upgrades.

Gering City Council member Jill McFarland spoke to her Scottsbluff counterparts at their regular council meeting and said the proposal results in double taxation for anyone living within a municipality, as they’re taxed at both the county and local level.

She said the glitch in the proposal is that the county said it has 8,000 residents. Those are residents in rural areas, not municipalities. When added together, the county has 36,000 residents.

McFarland later said about $30,000 of the request would be paid by the county’s eight smaller municipalities: Mitchell, Morrill, Minatare, Lyman, Terrytown, Melbeta, Henry and McGrew.

“We might think the smaller communities are funding much smaller amounts,” she said. “But basically, they have no resources, no reserve and minimal property valuation.”
Under Gering’s alternate proposal, every resident’s financial obligation would be based on a percentage of the total population of the county, with numbers from the federal census. Additionally, the comm. center would be operated by a joint committee with representatives from each of the county’s municipalities.

McFarland said the only thing she asked for at the Scottsbluff council meeting was that they delay approving the county’s proposal. That would allow for two or three weeks for all parties to meet and come up with a proposal that’s more equitable.
“The vote was 4-1 to approve the county’s plan, so I guess they weren’t impressed,” she said. “Scottsbluff could have shown some leadership in this challenging situation. The smaller communities will have little leverage at all to sit down with the county and ask to consider something different.”

Kent Greenwalt, the mayor of Terrytown, one of those smaller communities, agreed. “It’s just my opinion, but from what I’ve heard from others, I don’t think this proposal based on population will fly,” he said. “We may need to stay with the current agreement until we can come up with something that works for everyone.”

McFarland said the Gering council will meet on Sept. 30 to discuss the proposal. “We simply need more time to see if we can come up with something that would be agreeable to everyone involved.”

She added that so far, the county appears unwilling to consider other options. A June 17 letter from the county to the municipalities gave a 180-day notice for them to accept the new proposal, with the deadline being Dec. 17. The letter continued, “After which time, Scotts Bluff County will no longer be a participant in dispatching or communications services with your community.”
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