Benton County commissioners want to revive dispatch study

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 27, 2013 

Benton County commissioners want to revive a 2011 agreement to study consolidating the emergency dispatch operations in the Tri-Cities.

The study never happened, and instead a new pact is circulating among local governments calling for a consultant to help design and implement a plan for a regional dispatch system in Benton and Franklin counties.

"We just need to go back to the original documents that everybody was OK with," Commissioner Jim Beaver told the Herald on Tuesday.

He also said commissioners want the state -- not the counties -- to be the entity to hire the consultant for the study.

Benton County commissioners discussed the dispatch issue at their regular Tuesday morning meeting. A special session to talk more about the matter is planned for 9 a.m. today at the Benton County Justice Center, 7122 W. Okanogan Place, Kennewick.

The idea of joining the emergency dispatch operations in the Tri-Cities has been on the table for years.

One study, by the consulting firm eGov, suggested the move could save money and improve services. And in late 2011, Benton and Franklin counties approved an agreement to use state money for a separate study.

But that report never materialized, and instead the new agreement came to commissioners about a year later, county officials have said.

Officials from most of the other local governments involved in the talks have said they see the new agreement as an intermediate step, leading to creating a business plan that would help decide if consolidation is the right move. A final decision would come later, they've said.

But some Benton County officials have viewed it as committing to a merger -- something the county isn't yet ready to do.

Two state officials were at Tuesday's meeting and said the local governments could pursue either agreement.

Also Tuesday:

w Commissioners asked staff to start the process of having 38th Avenue classified as an urban collector street, which would make it eligible for federal funding. West Richland plans to join in the request, the county's public works manager said.

The dirt road today is privately maintained. A group of property owners in the Willamette Heights area near West Richland recently proposed paving it -- and a few other roads in the area -- through a county road improvement district, or CRID. Property owners within the improvement district would have footed the bill through per-parcel assessments.

But not all the landowners supported the proposal, and commissioners ended up rejecting it at a meeting earlier this month. Beaver said during that session that the county should discuss contributing road money to "at least 38th, and we should be talking to the city of West Richland about how we can partner to have that collector-arterial constructed."

He asked county staff to come back with a resolution to start the process of reclassifying it.

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service