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Urge your commissioners to consolidate county dispatch services

| February 23, 2021 7:00 AM

To the editor:

I have waited for the leaders of this community to speak up and warn the Troy County District residents that there is a safety issue. So I must speak up.

If and when you need the services of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and call 911, you will get Troy Dispatch. You will be asked what your emergency is and you will be told that you live in the county. Then you will be put back on hold and transferred to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch, where you will have to explain all over what is occurring.

These seconds, minutes can make a big difference in the outcome of an emergency, which could cause injuries or death. I was not aware of this occurring until I had an incident and needed law enforcement. That’s not the time to find out that you will be transferred and there will be a delay in services.

This safety issue was discussed with the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners on June 5, 2019. They stated they were unaware of this safety issue and would check into it.

Well, I have attended three more meetings with the county commissioners on this subject: July 10, 2019; March 22, 2020; and Dec. 2, 2020.

First, there was a committee formed to come up with a resolution, which resulted in no agreement and no action. At the last meeting I attended, I was told the Troy City Council had to agree with the county commissioners for the dissolution of Troy Dispatch.

There is an ordinance that was signed March 13, 1996 that enshrined the agreement between Troy City Council and county commissioners. That was almost 25 years ago. In this time, look at the growth of Troy County District. Keep in mind that the sheriff’s office dispatch center has since been updated to handle the call loads for all of Lincoln County.

The 1996 ordinance states:

  1. "The name of the proposed district shall be the Troy Area Dispatch District.
  2. The services to be provided by the district are general fire, ambulance, and law enforcement dispatch services within said district.
  3. It is hereby acknowledge that there presently are no such services available through the governments forming this multi-jurisdictional service district.
  4. The governmental parties to this agreement seek to provide for the public reliable, competent, and consistent service in an area that has heretofore not been provided by the government with such services. This service is deemed to be in the best interests of the public welfare and protection and within the police powers of the State of Montana."

Today, there exist several disputable issues with this ordinance. Regarding the second paragraph, the sheriff’s office dispatch can provide services for fire, ambulance and law enforcement.

Regarding the third paragraph, there are now services available to people in the Troy District area — the sheriff’s office dispatch. We no longer need Troy Area Dispatch.

In regards to the fourth paragraph, again, we have the sheriff’s dispatch center that can provide us with convenient, reliable, competent and consistent service. Relying solely upon the sheriff’s office dispatch would be in the best interest of our public welfare and protection. Using Troy Area Dispatch causes delays in response time, which hinders public welfare and protection.

The solution I found is in the Montana Code Annotated, Title 7, Chapter 11, part 10 (7-11-1029), “Dissolution of Special District:”

  1. A special district may be dissolved if it is considered to be in the best interest of a local government or the inhabitants of the local government or if the purpose for creating the special district has been fulfilled and the special district is not needed in perpetuity.
  2. The governing body may pass a resolution of intention to dissolve a special district upon its own request or upon request of the separate board administering the special district.

This safety issue was discussed at a Troy City Council meeting on Dec. 9, 2020. It appeared that local officials were more concerned with not losing their dispatch center than the safety of the residents of the county’s Troy District. It also came up that City of Troy residents couldn’t financially support their dispatch without financial help from Troy District residents.

The decision again was to form a committee to come up with a resolution. At this time, nothing has been resolved.

So my recommendation to my neighbors to help with this safety issue is: When you call 911 for police service and get Troy Area Dispatch, just immediately tell them to transfer you to the sheriff’s dispatch. That this is what it’s come to is saddening.

I am disappointed and concerned that leaders in this community are not taking this issue serious or doing anything regarding the safety of people in the Troy District. Both the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners and Troy City Council should be concerned with the potential delay of response time, which can lead to injuries, loss of life, liability and potential lawsuits.

Also, why are residents in the Troy District paying for two dispatch centers, especially when one does not service our area?

The best solution is to consolidate under one dispatch center to service everyone safely, stopping the delays and the transfers. You call and you are talking to the same dispatcher, who then dispatches the call to the first responders. As Commissioner Mark Peck (D-1) stated, no jobs would be lost through consolidation. This would be due to more dispatchers needed by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

If you agree, please take the time to call and express your concerns. County Commissioner Jerry Bennett (D-2) can be reached at 406-283-2319 or via email: jbennett@libby.org. County Commissioner Mark Peck (D-1) can be reached at 406-283-2371 or via email at mark.peck@libby.org. Troy City Council can be reached at 406-295-4151 or via email: citytroy@troymt.net.

Kimberly Mole

Lincoln County