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Council inks comm center agreement
April 17, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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After considering proposals and counterproposals, and after much discussion, members of the Gering City Council have approved an interlocal agreement to become a member of Scotts Bluff County Emergency Communications Services – but not without some objections.

Negotiations over several points in the agreement had come to a standstill. The county then sent a letter to Gering and Minatare, the last holdouts to the agreement, stating they needed a yes no answer from the cities as to whether they wanted to participate. Without the agreement, non-emergency communications would cease for the two cities.

County Board Chair Mark Masterton told council members all other municipalities in the county have signed onto the agreement, and with budget time approaching, they needed an answer.
“We have no plan to terminate emergency 911 services for any portion of the county,” Masterton said. “We don’t believe we should be entering a separate agreement with Gering and Minatare because everyone else has signed the agreement.”

Under the interlocal agreement, municipalities would share in the cost of technology upgrades, based on population. Operations of the comm. center would be funded by the county.

One of the points of contention has been over the comm. center budget. Advisory board members, chosen by the municipalities, advise a budget for the center. But ultimately, the county board approves the funding. Gering city officials have said this delegates some of Gering’s budget authority to the county, which they reject.

Council member Jill McFarland said the differences had come down to small items, but the comm. center must be maintained to serve the needs of everyone in the county. But she urged the county to not let the comm. center’s technology become antiquated again.

Council member Larry Gibbs said he’d vote to approve the agreement with all its flaws. “I still think it stinks,” he said. “I don’t think the county has ever negotiated in good faith because this agreement was presented on a take it or leave it basis.”

In signing the agreement, Gering will pay $59,024.21 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Percentage of participation funding as of April 17, 2014 is $15,347.84, for a total of just under $75,000.
The council appointed Ben Backus as its representatives on the communications center advisory board. Council member Don Christensen will serve as an alternate.
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