DISPATCH BILLING
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TO MEDIATE OR NOT 3-19-14 LMS

Lemhi County operates a Dispatch service that handles all law enforcement and emergency services calls for the city and the county. Several years ago the county submitted an $80,000 bill to the city for the cityís share of dispatch operation costs. Last year the city made a $10,000 payment towards dispatch services and late last year at a joint city county meeting discussion began on the possibility of the two parties entering into a formal mediation process to settle the dispute.

At the March 19 meeting of the Salmon City Council the subject of mediation was discussed for over half an hour at the end of which it was decided more actual facts and figures, such as percentages of use, are needed before proceeding into the process described by City Attorney Fred Snook.

According to Snook the city and county would each have to submit written requests for mediation to a state commission. The commission would then select a date for a local meeting with both parties. Each party would submit documents in support of their positions to the commission and make the documents available to the opposing entity. Considering the cost issues involved the paperwork should document Dispatch operation costs as well as the number of calls for city law enforcement, county law enforcement, the number of ambulance calls within the city and within the county, fire calls and origins of any other calls routed through the Dispatch service.

Snook said a commission chairman presides as each party is given an opportunity to present its case and submit any supplemental documents that may be required. The presentations are followed by a rebuttal period. The mediator then makes a recommendation that can either be accepted or not by the parties. If the decision is not to accept a recommended settlement there would be a written declaration of no agreement and it would be up to the opposing parties to decide whether or not to proceed into a legal action.

The population of Salmon City is 3,120. The total population of Lemhi County including the city is 8,012. Percentages of Dispatch use would be based on those figures as well as for establishing data on the purpose for the calls. The county is mandated by state law to provide law enforcement services for county residents.

The city has never had a facility for dispatching law enforcement calls other than a light on top of the Main Street Shoup building, many years ago, which a telephone operator would activate whenever a law enforcement officer was needed.

If the issue progresses to formal mediation the two sides of the Dispatch cost debate would be presented by City Attorney Snook and County Attorney Bruce Withers.

Hearing the step by step process the council could see the need for a list of supportable facts. Councilman Waidely said he thought it would be well worth the time to sit down and have a talk with the County Commissioners and Sheriff Bowerman and also worth the councilís time to schedule a special workshop meeting to establish factual information on the dispatch fee issue before going to the trouble of mediation. Councilman Jim Bockelman agreed the effort should be made even though heís not sure it will solve anything. He said either way, moves have to be made to resolve the long standing issue.

Some council members feel limiting the discussion to law enforcement and emergency calls through Dispatch in no way addresses other services for which city residents feel they are paying twice, but it is a first step in opening communications.

The council set a tentative date of April 17 for a City Council Dispatch-Emergency Services-Law Enforcement workshop. It will be held in the Salmon Valley Center meeting room and begin at 5:30PM.


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