Friday, October 24, 2014

City signals compromise on 911 deal

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 11/8/2013

It’s a 50-50 split.

Ottawa city commissioners are hopeful their latest proposal to fund the joint city-county 911 communications center will be accepted by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.

It’s a 50-50 split.

Ottawa city commissioners are hopeful their latest proposal to fund the joint city-county 911 communications center will be accepted by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.

The two commissions have been at odds over how the dispatch center, located in the Franklin County Adult Detention Center and Sheriff’s Office building, 305 S. Main St., Ottawa, is to be funded.

Ottawa officials in August proposed changes to the interlocal agreement between the city and county — established in February 1994 — that helps pay for the joint emergency communications center. As part of the proposal, the City of Ottawa’s contribution would decrease 2 percent each year for the next five years until Ottawa is only contributing 40 percent.

City leaders said during an August city commission meeting they thought the 40 percent figure was fair since residents of Ottawa pay not only property taxes for Ottawa, but also Franklin County.

County commissioners see it differently and have been unwilling to budge from the current funding arrangement.

“When [city officials] say 50-50, it’s not really 50-50,” Steve Harris, county commission chair, said previously. “My understanding in what’s paid 50-50 are the salaries — just the wages of the people that operate the center.”

The city’s financial contribution does not cover other costs associated with funding the center, Harris and other county officials have pointed out during recent discussions about the agreement.

City commissioners have backed off their August funding proposal of 40 percent.

The city commission voted 5-0 Wednesday night to approve a one-year agreement for operating the center that would share the personnel costs of the center on a 50-50 basis. The city has allocated $284,739 in its 2014 budget for its contribution, according to the proposed agreement.

The agreement also stipulates that the city would be held harmless for any liability claims arising from the operation of the communications center. The center is staffed by county employees.

Additionally, the proposed 2014 agreement calls for the establishment of an advisory committee comprised of the Ottawa police chief, the Franklin County sheriff, Franklin County ambulance director and Ottawa fire chief, who would provide advice and consultation about the center’s operation.

Richard Nienstedt, Ottawa city manager, told city commissioners Wednesday an important aspect of the agreement is that it holds the city harmless for any liability claims that might arise in the future.

County commissioners have stated during recent interviews they have no problem with holding the city harmless for liability claims. County officials also have expressed no concern about forming the advisory committee.

The sticking point, county officials said, has been over funding the center.  

County commissioners and the Kansas Attorney General’s Office would still have to approve the city’s latest proposal before the agreement would go into effect, city officials said. The county commission is scheduled to vote on the agreement Wednesday.

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