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Gering close to acceptance of comm. center agreement
December 05, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Members of the Gering Public Safety Committee met Monday evening to address any questions as the city is expected to sign onto an interlocal agreement with the county to continue receiving 911 emergency services.

Gering City Administrator Lane Danielzuk said the draft agreement has been sent to city council members and also to the county’s smaller municipalities. The numbers for funding the county comm. center are the ones proposed by the county. Those numbers had been a point of contention, as council members Jill McFarland and Larry Gibbs said the funding formula taxed residents of municipalities twice, at both the local and county levels.

Danielzuk said the council will discuss the agreement at its Dec. 9 meeting in anticipation of the county’s Dec. 17 deadline to accept the agreement and come up with the first payment toward technology upgrades in the comm. center.

“If for some reason, our council has problems or issues with coming to a policy decision with respect to the agreement, that needs to be addressed,” Danielzuk said. “I’ve offered it on the agenda for that discussion. But it is our intention to approve an agreement.”

Under the county’s agreement, Gering would pay $115,000 over the next three years, with this year’s payment set at $59,000. Danielzuk said he intends to have a signed agreement and a check to the county by Dec. 10.

Gering Fire Chief Templar, Police Chief George Holthus and Director of Public Works Pat Heath all spoke in favor of signing the interlocal agreement.

“Our staff believes this service is vital to the community,” Holthus said. “It’s not something we can do more effectively on our own. We don’t have access to things like background checks, criminal histories unless it’s through the comm. center.”

Templar said trying to dispatch emergency calls on their own or with other communities would be a step backwards from what they’ve accomplished over the past 20 years with the combined communications center.

Heath reminded the group the city’s after-hours utility requests also go through the comm. center because the city doesn’t have the staff to handle them. Calls for utility assistance can include water line breaks, sewer backups and electrical problems.

“It’s a shame all of us didn’t sit down prior to this and hammer out an agreement,” said Gering Mayor Ed Mayo. “I’m disappointed that public safety was used as a political football. I expect that from Washington, but not us.”

Mayo said after the three-year agreement is signed and in place, he’d like to meet with the county board and discuss future agreements so they know what to expect down the road.
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