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County board modifies agreement
November 21, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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At their Monday meeting, the Scotts Bluff County Board of Commissioners set new deadlines and made a few modifications within the new emergency communications center agreement being considered by the county and its municipalities.

The board officially extended the deadline for partners to sign the agreement and make payment of their share of technology upgrades to the comm. center, which provides emergency 911 services to the county. At their last meeting, commissioners agreed in principle to extend the deadline from Nov. 11, 2012 to Dec. 17. Because the item wasn’t on the agenda, no official action could be taken.

The board agreed to the extension to allow the county’s smaller municipalities time to consider the new agreement in detail before signing.

Letters explaining their actions have been sent out to McGrew, Melbeta, Minatare, Gering, Scottsbluff, Mitchell, Morrill, Lyman, Henry and Terrytown.

The letter also explained the change in voting provisions for the advisory board organized to oversee the comm. center. The first draft had voting based on population, but the smaller municipalities said that would put them at a disadvantage. The new proposal gives each municipality one vote, regardless of size.

The total asking amount for the comm. center upgrades is $496,631, spread out over the next three years. During the last fiscal year, some municipalities made a contribution toward funding upgrades to the comm. center. Gering approved $40,000. County board chairman Mark Masterton explained that funding was during the previous year, before the current agreement was written.

The county board also discussed and approved deadlines for providing emergency dispatch service in the future. If a municipality chooses not to sign onto the agreement, dispatching services would be discontinued after the Dec. 17 deadline.

Dispatching services include non-emergency 911 calls, such as noise complaints and requests for service. However, emergency calls would continue to be handled until Jan. 31, 2014, allowing the municipality time to set up their own dispatching center.

“We need to assure the community is safe and has access to emergency communications,” said Commissioner Mike Marker. “We’re not just all of a sudden cutting off that service.”

Commissioner Ken Meyer agreed, saying safety needs to be their priority for all areas of the county.

Gering Mayor Ed Mayo was also in attendance. He later said he was happy the county voted to extend the agreement deadline until Dec. 17. But he also said he didn’t know how some of the Gering council members would react to what he called “saber rattling” among some county commissioners.

“I think a couple of them got caught up in the moment and wanted to flex a little bit,” he said. “I don’t look at it any more than what it is, but we do plan on having an agreement ready by the county’s deadline. That’s been our position all along, although we get heartburn over some of the line items in the agreement.”

Mayo said the exact wording of the finalized agreement remains to be seen, as different municipalities signed the agreement at different times, with revisions made since the initial draft.

Mayo has been working with the county’s smaller communities and said many of them also have reservations about the agreement and how it’s financed. “Just because one community’s attorney writes the agreement for their board doesn’t necessarily mean they speak for everyone else in the county,” he said. “From when this first started, I’ve been trying to get everyone together to hash things out.”
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