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BC keeps debating 911 issue

November 7, 2012

Barnes County Commissioners addressed city concerns regarding changes to the county’s 911 system at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

The city of Valley City still has questions and concerns regarding relinquishing management of the county’s 911 system to the county government, according to Valley City City Administrator Dave Schelkoph who presented commissioners with a copy of a city resolution listing concerns. The county proposed earlier to take control of running the system (duties currently contracted to the city) and moving the 911equipment to a neutral location in the Law Enforcement Center.

City commissioners still don’t fully understand the reasons for the county taking over the 911 system, Schelkoph said. Especially since city police are trained as 911 operators and are always available for back-up, he pointed out. The Sheriff’s Department does not have someone in the office 24/7. Also, since Chief of Police Fred Thompson has been acting 911 coordinator and is willing to continue doing that job, city commissioners questioned the need for a new 911 administrator in the resolution.

Staff from the county jail could be used as back-up, according to County Commissioner Eldred Knutson. Knutson, which would also put the back-up system in a separate location than the main system in case of disaster such as tornado or fire.

Another concern for city commissioners is the difference between pay and benefits for 911 dispatchers. Currently, the dispatchers are split between the city and county with each being paid accordingly. If the city employees become county employees, what happens to their benefits such as vacation and sick time, asked Schelkoph.

Knutson admitted that the two entities need to work together to iron out details including benefits before moving forward or meeting a tentative change date of Jan., 2013.

County Commissioner John Froelich, disagreed with using jail guards as back-up and the take-over plan completely. He is afraid the county will end up spending a lot more than it expects to. ”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ he said.

The commission agreed to answer questions the city has over the next two weeks, until the next County Commission meeting.

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