News : Scottsbluff Council Gives Money for Call Center Improvements
Sept 5, 2012 -- The Scottsbluff City Council has responded to a call for aid from Scotts Bluff County to help fund its communications center.
Earlier this year, representatives of Scotts Bluff County floated proposals for adoption of a cell phone sales tax by the City of Scottsbluff and City of Gering. Officials, including Communications Center Director Ray Richards, cited that the cell phone tax would help fund needed improvements at the center.
However, the proposal didn’t ring too well with Scotts Bluff County citizens. With the unpopularity of the proposal, Scottsbluff council members were among those who suggested an alternative may have to be considered.
To help support needed improvements at the center, county officials asked communities to contribute funds voluntarily. A per capita formula was suggested.
During final approval of its budget numbers on Tuesday, the Scottsbluff City Council approved help to the county. Though the approved amount was half of that requested by the county, the funds indicates "we are prepared to help. We want to be partners in this," Scottsbluff City Manager Rick Kuckkahn said.
Discussions about the per capita formula were still evolving among the communities requested to contribute funds, he said. Scottsbluff realizes the importance of the needed improvements, which include replacement of out-dated equipment that is no longer supported by companies.
The funds will come with some strings attached. Scottsbluff has long been a proponent of "priority dispatching," which involves 911 operators asking callers a series of questions to determine appropriate response. The operator asks questions that determine if police, fire or ambulance personnel are needed, helping to limit use of unneeded resources.
Scottbluff council members indicated they want Scotts Bluff County to evaluate and make progress toward possible adoption of a priority dispatch model.
"We should be pushing toward (priority dispatch)," Kuckkahn said, as he agreed with council member Dave Boeckner and Mayor Randy Meininger in statements that priority dispatching would reduce costs in the long run. Currently, the council discussed, the county has said that training costs could be increased with priority dispatching, but Kuckkahn said long-term costs would be lower.
Boeckner said he believed future funding should be tied toward the goal of working toward priority dispatching. "(We need to say) We are going to be a lot more hesitant to support down the way if that isn’t in there," Boeckner said.
The funds are slated to come out of funds the council had already set aside for "consultant fees" for possible projects anticipated during the next year. Kuckkahn outlined that some money had been set aside for such fees, but that he felt that reserve or contingency funds could be drawn from as needed.
The county had requested the amount for two years and said they were expecting a decrease, Meininger said. However, council members indicated they are expecting yearly allocations to the communications center will be needed.
"Once you get in there, you are in there for the long haul," Meininger said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Friday, September 07, 2012
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