By Tammy Gray
Holbrook is set to become a founding partner in a regional dispatch center that aims to eventually handle the needs of all emergency responders in Navajo County.
City council members did not take any action Tuesday evening, since the city attorney has not yet had an opportunity to review the agreement establishing the Northeastern Arizona Regional Dispatch Center, but voiced general support of the plan.
According to City Manager Ray Alley, under the current agreement Navajo County provides dispatch services for the Holbrook Police Department at an annual cost of approximately $110,000. He noted that the fee has not increased in the last three years and that the sheriff’s office needs to replace outdated equipment. Under the new arrangement, dispatch services would be managed by a private company and Navajo County would loan the regional group approximately $1 million to purchase new equipment and set up the new center. The city will pay a per call fee of around $24.11, which Alley estimates will cost about $160,000 per year.
Alley told the council that even with the increased cost he believes the regional center provides a good value for the city. He explained that when the city operated its own dispatch center, the cost was at least $250,000 per year and a large investment in new equipment was also sorely needed.
The city manager asked the council to delay approving the agreement, however, since the city attorney had not yet reviewed it and he had a few concerns about some of the language it contained. Alley also pointed out that the city is under no obligation to enter into the partnership and still has an agreement with the county at the $110,000 rate.
If the council agrees to participate in the dispatch center, the city will act as a principal partner and have a representative on the governing board. The city will pay a reduced rate as a result. Other participants may enter as subscribers and will pay a higher rate up to $37.50 per call. Alley noted that Holbrook EMS is currently receiving free services through the city, but will have to pay the per call rate, which could add up to around $50,000 per year.
Navajo County Sheriff KC Clark explained that the regional dispatch center will not be under the direction of the county or the sheriff’s office, but will be managed by a private company and the private company will receive direction from the partnership’s governing board. According to Clark, the private company will be able to offer higher pay rates and better benefits to dispatchers.
Mayor Jeff Hill asked staff to send the agreement to the city attorney for review and bring it back to the council at the next meeting, which is scheduled at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 29, at city hall. Council members are also expected to vote on the final budget at that meeting.