|BOWERMAN RESPONDS TO NEWS STORIES|
LETTER FROM THE SHERIFF 6-10-14
I am writing this response to the recent news articles ran on KSRA radio, pertaining to the request by myself and Lemhi County, for assistance from the City Council & Mayor, for funds to run dispatch. I think there are several issues which need to be cleared up, as the news article didnít quite state the facts, as I believe it happened.
First of all, I donít believe that I threatened the city. What I said, was without a signed MOU or contract, I planned to eliminate non-essential dispatch services to the City Police, effective October 1st. This did not include 911 calls or felony crime calls. I further advised them that I didnít care if the MOU gave me a nickel or the $84,000, but that the signed MOU or contract needed both city and county signatures agreeing to a dispatch understanding that was more than a handshake.
Not everyone remembers, the City of Salmon paid $30,000 a year to the County for dispatch services up and until 2010, and then eliminated them under Mayor John Miller, when he stated it was double taxation. The Courts in Idaho have ruled that it is not so, but an obligation. It was an agreement by handshake and it ended when Miller was Mayor. Since then, we not only upgraded our dispatch system, but have also added very much needed software, for records. We provided access to this software to the City Police, without cost, even though it was not all paid for by 911 funds. As some of you know, we all pay around $1.25 on our phone bill, both for cell phones and your home phone, to pay for 911 services. What most people, donít know, is that these funds are placed under control by the county, and can only be used for equipment for dispatch, and can never be used to pay dispatcher salaries. Thatís where the rub comes from. According to Idaho Code 31-4809 the legislature determined the obvious need for providing a means to finance the initiation, maintenance, operation, and enhancement and governance of a consolidated emergency communications system. I.C. 31-4801, then provides for the purpose and authority of those funds, which are placed under the control of the County Commissioners. I.C. 31-4810 pertains to joint county wide services of dispatch to receive funds jointly, if established and maintained prior to 7/1/87, which is not the case in Lemhi County. The dispatch service handshake service did not begin before 1987. Then there is Idaho Code 31-4817, which allows mediation for local disputes involving the 911 system. The dispute is non-binding, but allows a possible resolution, prior to a law suit being filed. This is what I and the County Commissioners asked for but up until this point, the City has refused to participate. No where in the Communication Act, Idaho Code 31, does it state that the Sheriff has to provide dispatch services above 911, to another entity, for free. I believe that it is my responsibility to provide a 911 system by using the funds to pay for equipment, but no where does it say that Lemhi County has to dispatch for free. The City of Salmon is incorporated, and has chosen to have a Police Department. How do you have a Police Department without providing a dispatch? It doesnít work! Not only are the handshakes not good any more, but misunderstandings are frequent. I am asking you, the City, for a signed agreement between the City/County, in order to continue your non-essential dispatch service. This is only fair. I want the City and the County to work together for the good of the community, to provide the best dispatch service possible, in order to maintain a dispatch system that continually becomes complicated and impossible for one dispatcher to perform the duties, necessary for 2 law enforcement entities, EMS, Fire, and Salmon Search & Rescue.
In recent years the County Commissioners have allowed me to place 2 detention deputies on staff, 24 hours a day, in order to comply with Idaho Jail Standards and certification. We have used one of these deputies as a back-up for dispatch. However, due to the complicated and demanding duties of dispatch, my detention officers can not continue to perform these functions when they have meals to serve, bed checks to make, bookings, monitoring cells, allowing required exercise, visitations, attorney visits, drug screens, and the list goes on and on. When a 911 call occurs, especially a two car accident, the dispatcher has to page out an ambulance, fire, search & rescue, a city police officer/or a deputy sheriff, and then, log each of the above individuals times in as the respond, while still talking to the reporting party, who might be hysterical or disturbed by what they are seeing. The dispatcher also has to communicate with the police officer responding to, and all officers traffic stops or calls to service, which continue to happen even during an emergency. The dispatcher frequently receives multiple calls on all incidents and these 911 and regular phone calls still have to be answered. I have one person assigned to dispatch for day shift, swing shift, grave yard shift, and a relief shift. I have asked the City to pay for 2 dispatchers salaries and benefits, which amounts to approximately $84,000. According to my 911 system statistics, the Salmon Police Department is using about 57% of my dispatch for calls to service. I am asking for a less percentage just to maintain the current status quo. Without these funds, I will never be able to ask the County Commissioners for additional funds, to maintain and upgrade the dispatch to include an additional dispatcher to fund what is already a complicated and ever demanding system.
The reason I offered an alternative to dispatch funding, by contracting the City Police, was that I saw an opportunity to provide one law enforcement authority, under one administration, with the same set of rules for everyone, including policies and procedures, with what I believe is a significant savings in tax dollars for both the city and county. By contracting, the cities obligation to dispatch would be eliminated thus saving $84,000 plus an additional $100,000 in two years, when the consolidation process would be completed by changing uniforms, computer updates, and vehicle purchases. It provided for a full time school resource officer, two detectives, 24 hour coverage in the city and county simultaneously, and allowed me to hire all but one current employee of the Salmon Police Department. To meÖÖthat sounds like a good deal, and to the tax payer, that sounds like an outstanding deal. The implication that some people stated that they wanted consolidation before, but after reading my proposal, decided against it, sounds like the same people who stated that they wanted to disband the police department and make the county take it for ďfreeĒ, but are not willing to contract it at a reasonable cost, or any cost, to truly make it an effective and efficient organization. I understand the politics and the personalities, but do we truly want to look the other way, when the tax payers are involved. Trust me when I say, I donít need the headache of dealing with all the issues involving the increase in multiple employees, but it is the right thing to do.
Times have changed, and the current system has not. Hand-shakes are for truly good friends and not for local government, who obviously see things from different perspectives. I will continue to ask the City for financial support in order to protect and serve all residents of Lemhi County, including those in the City of Salmon. After all, even Salmon residents vote for the office of Sheriff, and I do not take that lightly.
Sheriff Lynn D. Bowerman 6/10/2014
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