911 Switch Faces Possible Delay: Valley City Has Contract In Place Until July 2013

Barnes County Commissioners discussed postponing the proposed date for taking control of the 911 system from Jan. 1, 2013 to July 16, 2013 during their regular meeting on Tuesday.

It was brought to the county commissioners attention that the operating contract currently held by the city doesn’t expire until July 16, 2013. If the county voids the contract early, it may be open to legal action by the city for breech of contract.

Valley City City Administrator Dave Schelkoph told county commissioners that the city still had unanswered questions regarding the county taking over operations of the 911 system. In particular, the county hasn’t provided the city with an operation plan or a transitional plan. The city wonders if the lack of plans is an indicator of how the county will run the 911 program in the future.

“It’s a question of whether the county is capable of running the 911 system,” said Schelkoph during the meeting.

According to Schelkoph, the city listed its concerns in a resolution that was presented to the county commissioners at its last meeting.

According to county commissioner Eldred Knutson, he answered the questions, but Schelkoph pointed out that questions regarding operation plans and transitional plans remained unanswered. The city didn’t have an operation plan when it took over the 911 system either, said Knutson. And as far as a transitional plan, the only big difference when the county takes over will be where the 911 operator’s checks come from, Knutson said, though he admitted the county still needed to work out details including differences in pay and benefits for current city employees who would become county employees.

Fred Thompson, Valley City Police Chief and current 911 supervisor, outlined a plan for 911 during a 911 committee meeting, Schelkoph said. Currently, the 911 system has a policy in place for every agency in the county.

Schelkoph said that the city was willing to work with the county and do whatever it takes to make sure the 911 system works at its best for everyone it serves.

The city is not ready to switch by Jan. 1, city commissioner Mary Lee Nielson told the commission.

After consulting with State’s Attorney Lee Grossman regarding whether the county could face a lawsuit for breech of contract, and learning that Grossman agreed that the timeline should be changed, the commissioners opted to push the deadline back to July.

Other items acted on or discussed by the Barnes County Commission included; the commission held a special meeting on Monday to meet the search committee’s first choice for county auditor, Joe Sykora. Commissioners opted Monday to delay hiring an auditor until they met the committee’s second choice, Beth Didier. A special meeting is to be held Wednesday at 8 a.m. for that purpose.

State’s Attorney Lee Grossman consulted with the commission regarding hiring a new assistant State’s Attorney to replace Brad Cruff who was recently elected judge for the Southeast Judicial District. Grossman would like to offer the position to Ashley Heitcamp who currently works for the Stutsman County State’s Attorney. Citing Heitcamp’s qualifications, Grossman told the commission he would be comfortable hiring her to begin in January.