Clarkston, county officials to discuss emergency dispatch, but not behind closed doors

From the Lewiston Tribune

By KERRI SANDAINE of the Tribune | Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Clarkston officials agreed to sit down with other entities for a discussion about emergency dispatch, but they said no to meeting behind closed doors.

At Tuesday night’s Clarkston City Council meeting, Councilor Larry Baumberger said the city public safety committee is “not inclined to enter into executive session discussions with the Asotin County commissioners” about the dispatch contract. And Mayor Kathleen Warren has signed a letter saying the city wants to talk about the issue in an open meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 21 at city hall.

More than two years ago, the city of Asotin raised concerns about the costs associated with emergency dispatch services in Asotin County. Since then, Clarkston administrators and legal counsel have done extensive research on the issue and found similar concerns, Baumberger said.

In June, the council authorized the mayor and staff to proceed with discussions on the renewal of the existing contract, which expires in 2014. Last month, the Asotin County commissioners requested an executive session to discuss the contract with the city council, but Clarkston doesn’t want any secrecy.

“The public safety committee, after further discussions with staff and legal counsel, feel a private behind-closed-doors discussion is not the best approach,” Baumberger said. “We believe any contract negotiations that will directly affect our neighboring public entities, namely the city of Asotin and Asotin County Fire District No. 1, should be held in the public eye, and they should be represented at the table.”

Emergency calls in Asotin County are handled by Whitcom, a regional dispatch center in Pullman.

Clarkston and Asotin County Fire District No. 1 subcontract with the county for dispatch services, and the city of Asotin does not have a contract. Negotiations came to a standstill after the Asotin city attorney began digging into the contract and raised several red flags about the costs. Clarkston has been paying more than its fair share, said Jane E. Richards, Asotin’s legal counsel.

County officials have said there’s more to emergency communications than Whitcom. Dispatch services include the cost of maintaining radio infrastructure, towers, repeaters, mapping and other items.

No representatives from Asotin County, the fire district or city of Asotin were at Tuesday’s meeting.

From the Lewiston Tribune

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