Despite a counter-proposal from Lincom Operations Manager Tami Atkinson, it appears that her Lincom Executive Board is proceeding as if a regional 9-1-1 dispatch center in the Willamette Valley may soon be dispatching 9-1-1 to Lincoln County as well.
For months, conversations between the Lincom dispatchers, Lincom Users Group and the Lincom Executive Board have centered around whether it’s financially feasible to retain Lincom’s operational headquarters in Newport. Lincom’s dispatching consoles and back up systems are getting pretty old and have long since needed replacing and upgrading. Budgets for people have also risen to where Lincom’s annual budget hovers around $1.5 million. The Executive Board cites information from Willamette Valley Communications Center (WVCC) that they could dispatch Lincoln County for just over $1 million a year, and by applying emergency 9-1-1 fees charged to all cell phone users, that $335,000 annual income would bring down the county’s bill to WVCC to just $750,000.
However, Atkinson’s thirty-eight page report claims otherwise, stating that Lincom could dispatch cheaper than WVCC while keeping the dispatch services based among the communities it serves. However a some User Group members and a couple of Executive Board members contacted by News Lincoln County said the WVCC proposal and Atkinson’s cost analysis don’t line up. Depoe Bay Assistant Fire Chief Hank Wally said “It’s really not apples to apples in the specific kinds and volumes of services. Wally said Atkinson was encouraged to rework her report and re-issue in time for an early January meeting of the User Group and Executive Board.
In the meantime, the Executive Board, which controls the purse strings, has instructed County Counsel Wayne Belmont to engage WVCC in serious contract negotiations aimed at having a contract ready to be signed in February, the start of WVCC’s budget planning for next fiscal year which starts July 1st. One Executive Board member said “We’ve been talking about this for well over a year and now we’re down to crunch time. Lincom is also going into its budget planning for next fiscal year and member agencies need to know what they’re on the hook for and what they’re going to be getting for their taxpayers’ dollars. Then they can compare and decide. We should know by early to mid-February which way the member agencies are headed.”
If it’s WVCC, an agreement is expected to offer Lincom dispatchers preferential treatment in hiring at WVCC in Salem.
Other factors in play include 9-1-1 dispatch centers in Toledo and Lincoln City. Both have reasons for not joining in with WVCC; Lincoln City because it wants a redundant 9-1-1 connection to the valley for their 9-1-1 loop, and Toledo because they just built a state of the art dispatch center, and they like having their police station staffed 24/7 so if anything happens to anyone, they have a place to go to for help.
Getting back to Lincoln City and their need for redundancy for their 9-1-1 center, that redundancy may be as close as next summer or fall. CenturyLink has made connecting Lincoln City and Newport a top priority so Lincoln City could kill two birds with one stone; get their redundancy to the valley through their already existing intertie to the valley through Sheridan, and then south to Newport which is tied in to the valley at Corvallis. With redundancy achieved by Lincoln City it could join the rest of the county (except Toledo) on WVCC and pocket what some have estimated to be $250,00 to $400,000 a year in savings by dumping its dispatch center. However there has also been talk that Lincoln City may want to keep it’s center potentially operational in case of a big emergency. A really big emergency.
A complicated end to a complicated story perhaps in February.