911 funding remains critical

Print Article

Some important local issues seem to linger unresolved for decades. The Kalispell bypass was one, and the courthouse couplet is another, but as important as those have been to the character and development of our community, they were not life-and-death issues.

Funding for the 911 dispatch system very well could be, yet for the past decade that funding has been patched together. The patches have worked, and so has the dispatch system, but the funding level hasn’t allowed for important safety updates and maintenance to be made.

When the state-of-the-art dispatch center was built seven years ago, county and city officials knew they would need to determine a way to sustain operational funding for the long term. But if they thought it would be easy, they were sorely mistaken. The cities and county could never agree on an equitable division of responsibility, and the interlocal agreement that supported 911 chugged along out of sheer entropy.

In 2014, a new funding formula was put before the county’s voters and was rejected by just 10 votes out of more than 30,000 cast. Then the following year, the county commissioners came up with an alternate funding plan that would have created a special taxing district for 911. That, too, was rejected, this time through protests made by property owners affected by the tax.

Now the county and the cities of Whitefish, Kalispell and Columbia Falls are talking once again about how to find fair and consistent funding for the emergency services system.

Currently, the 911 center is funded by a property tax levy of about 6 mills that funds a portion of the sheriff’s budget — a funding mechanism that generates $1.5 million annually for the center. The three cities contribute money based on population, and a small tax on county residents’ phone bills brings in the rest of the operating money.

The center’s budget is about $3.2 million, enough to cover operational costs, but not to pay for equipment upgrades or ongoing maintenance. We’ve long argued that public safety should be the No. 1 priority for our public servants, and we hope that the recently renewed conversation will lead the county and cities to find a funding mechanism that will work once and for all.

This is not a discussion we can risk having unresolved for much longer.

Print Article

Read More Editorial

Brenneman made valley a better place

June 16, 2018 at 9:00 pm | Daily Inter Lake We were saddened to learn of the death of former County Commissioner Joe Brenneman, who exemplified the community-minded spirit of the Flathead as well as anyone. Brenneman, who was just 60 at the t...

Comments

Read More

Whitefish stepping up to address critical housing needs

June 10, 2018 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake An affordable-housing project proposed in Whitefish is one of eight finalists for the next round of Montana Board of Housing tax-credit awards, and that’s great news for a community whose housing nee...

Comments

Read More

Heino boosted by community support

June 08, 2018 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Congratulations to Brian Heino for his decisive victory in the race for Flathead County Sheriff on Tuesday. His ability to get almost as many votes as his three competitors combined shows he has a s...

Comments

Read More

Be responsible citizen and informed voter

June 03, 2018 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Well, it’s almost here — the most important day in the life of any republic: Election Day. As we have noted before, there is a high level of interest in this year’s primary election, from county con...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2018 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X